Alison Krauss, formerly known as Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, is just plain Alison Krauss these days, but there’s nothing plain about her performing, for sure. She showed she’s still got the magic Wednesday night to what looked to be a packed house at Robinson Center Performance Hall in Little Rock.
Though Douglas has gone off on his own, Krauss was not hurting for accompanists, with seven musicians on the stage on occasion, not always on each song, but stepping up at all the right times to play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic or electric bass, banjo, mandolin, drums, dobro and piano.
The 48-year old bluegrass veteran with the angelic soprano voice looked as angelic as she sounded in a 90-minute set that included some surprises (such as her opening selection, a fairly obscure Roger Miller number, “River in the Rain,”) along with songs that fans were there to hear, such as the three songs from her days with Union Station and Douglas: “The Lucky One,” “Let Me Touch You for Awhile” and “Sawing on the Strings.”
There were a couple of Willie Nelson covers: “I Never Cared for You” and the stunning “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” which was so tastefully rendered that the crowd erupted with applause in the middle of the song. Other choice selections were Little Milton’s “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson,” a terrific take on John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind,” and a couple of her big hits: The Foundations’ “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing at All.”
She also did “Forget About It,” “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby” and Down to the River to Pray,” closing with a spirited version of a spiritual, “It Is Well With My Soul.” Another surprise was a song inspired by Cotton Plant native, the legendary Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Sam Phillips’ “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us.”
Krauss was generous with her superb singing but stingy with her fiddle playing, which was in short supply and sometimes covered up by the electric guitar. Known for her sad songs, she did add some mirth to the show with some recollections of how long she had played with some of the band members, especially with a lengthy tale of her long friendship with her current dobro player, Sidney Cox, known for his work in his Northwest Louisiana family band.
The lighting and set were imaginatively done, seeming to suggest a street scene from years past behind the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.