DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
Alison Krauss – A Hundred Miles or More: Live from the Tracking Room (2008)
Published on February 4, 2009
Performers: Alison Krauss, with guest appearances by Tony Rice, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, John Waite, and Union Station – Composers include Chet Atkins, Gordon Lightfoot, Bill Anderson, Don Williams –Recorded at The Tracking Room, Nashville, TN
Studio: Rounder 11661-0625-9
Video: 1.33:1 full screen color
Audio: PCM 2.0
I’ve been listening to Alison Krauss for more than 15 years, usually preferring her Bluegrass efforts. She tends to alternate her bluegrass recordings with more pop/country offerings. Personally, I’ve preferred her Bluegrass music to the other stuff, thinking that in general current country music has morphed too much to the pop side for my tastes anyway. Most of it sounds far too vanilla and bland, commercial and over-produced. So I’ve dismissed and ignored the pop recordings of Krauss as not being as authentic as her Bluegrass efforts. Perhaps I was too hasty. Because after listening and watching “A Hundred Miles or More,” I’ve been forced to reevaluate all of her pop/country songs and I’ve come to a new conclusion—no matter what genre of music she’s singing, she’s damn good. So good that I’d place her at the top of the list of female vocalists performing today. So good that she can pick whatever music she wants to perform and I’ll probably listen to it. After this performance, she’s earned that consideration.
This DVD is a recreation of a recording studio session. In the real sessions I’ve seen, musicians don’t look this cleaned up. In a way, this is a fantasy version of what you think recording sessions must be like. It’s all for the best, since this is a visual treat of Alison Krauss fans. The lighting is gorgeous, the quality of the video is first-rate, and even the camera moves are as smooth as Krauss’ vocals. All the attention is focused squarely on Krauss and then, the other musicians. The level of musicianship is high as always, with amazing performances from Stuart Duncan on guitar and even ukulele (his ukulele accompaniment on “Away Down the River” is perfectly rendered). Both Sam Bush on mandolin and Tony Rice, looking and sounding kind of frail, on flatpick guitar turn up the level of playing and musicality as high as it goes.
The guest singers come from various genres of music. James Taylor proves to be a perfect match for Krauss. They should consider doing a full duet album together. Brad Paisley steps in with a country ballad and John Waite—yes, the British pop-rock star of “Missing You”—end the recording with this touching duet. Musically, the standout is “Away Down the River.” Krauss sings it with such complete sincerity, as she does on every song, that you are drawn in and lost in the beauty of her voice. Vying for saddest song of the bunch and maybe more is “Jacob’s Dream,” a true story of children lost in the woods. Not to give much away, but remember it’s a sad song, a very sad song, if you get my drift.
With this recording, I think Alison Krauss has shed herself of the label of just a Bluegrass musician. There’s a part of me that’s sad about that, since I have such love and respect for that music, but there’s another part of me that recognizes that she has put herself into a different echelon of musicians, where she will be compared to the greatest of American vocalists. The technical control, the subtle vocal nuances and colors, and the transcendent emotions of her performance are different, but not dissimilar from people like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Krauss really is that good and so is this DVD. This is a “must-have” if you enjoy Alison Krauss and her music.
1. You’re Just a Country Boy
2. Away Down the River
3. How’s the World Treating You
4. Sawing on the Strings
6. Whiskey Lullaby
7. Jacob’s Dream
8. Lay Down Beside Me
9. Simple Love
– Hermon Joyner