Second ‘Mountain’ Tour Bows in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky lived up to its nickname as the Bluegrass State as the Down from the Mountain tour launched its second leg in Louisville on Tuesday (June 25).

Inspired by music from the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the tour includes many of the soundtrack’s contributors, among them Alison Krauss & Union Station, Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley . Though not featured on the soundtrack, Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs also are part of the second leg of the tour. Both enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome in their home state.

Taking the stage just before the end of the first act, Skaggs shouted back to the screaming crowd, “I know where I am tonight!”

If the three-hour Louisville show is any indication, audience excitement will be high at the remaining 41 cities on the summer tour as well.

The concert’s brisk proceedings might remind longtime country fans -– and there were many in the audience, sitting with children and grandchildren -– of the early days of bluegrass and country music when artists traveled in package tours. In that tradition, it’s worth noting that Krauss, Harris, Stanley, Loveless and Skaggs are all members of the Grand Ole Opry.

While latecomers struggled to find their assigned folding chairs in the dark gymnasium known as Freedom Hall, the Nashville Bluegrass Band , Norman Blake (stepping in for the late John Hartford on “Big Rock Candy Mountain”) and Nancy Blake offered three familiar songs from the O Brother soundtrack, to polite applause.

If there is such a thing as star power in bluegrass, this show has it. Before her band’s two songs, Krauss joked, “I ate so much fried chicken [backstage], I can hardly catch my breath!”

Dan Tyminski replied, “You’re gonna start clucking.”

To which Krauss retorted, “Or something else!”

Tyminski remained onstage for the generously awarded “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” performing the song with two members of the Nashville Bluegrass Band, who served as his Soggy Bottom Boys. That big song out of the way, the show nevertheless refused to slow down. Harris revived Loretta Lynn ’s “Blue Kentucky Girl,” noting that the tour reminded her of “bluegrass summer camp.” Blues singer Chris Thomas King and the Del McCoury Band also performed brief sets before the intermission.

Not all contributors to the O Brother soundtrack are along for the Down From the Mountain tour. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, who appeared on the first of the Down From the Mountain concerts at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and at Carnegie Hall in New York, have not joined the traveling troupe. The Whites, scheduled to be along, are mourning the recent death of Pat White, wife of Buck and mother of Sharon and Cheryl.

Rosanne Cash , the Cox Family , the Fairfield Four, the Flatlanders and the Peasall Sisters will join the tour for dates later in its circuit. Cash’s ex-husband, Rodney Crowell , emcees the series, and Bob Neuwirth serves as musical director.

Loveless admitted that she was nervous because she had family members in the audience, but two selections from her acclaimed Mountain Soul album proved she is confident and at home in bluegrass music.

The audience leapt to its feet the instant Stanley appeared on stage. Among this talented cast of musicians, he is clearly the star. “O Death,” an a cappella meditation on mortality, captivated the crowd, and Loveless joined him on their bluegrass hit “Pretty Polly.” Before the song, Loveless wrapped her arm around Stanley and said, “This is the person I claim as the father of mountain soul.”

Stanley bid farewell to ol’ Kentucky in a reprise of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” which he recorded in 1948 with brother Carter Stanley. The cast reunited for the joyous “Angel Band” and a chilling reading of “Amazing Grace” in the old lining out style, led by Stanley. The audience clutched hands at Stanley’s request and sang along –- a testament that today’s bluegrass music can bring generations together.

The Down From the Mountain tour concludes Aug. 21 in Birmingham, Ala.

Set List

Nashville Bluegrass Band
“Po’ Lazarus”
Nashville Bluegrass Band, Norman Blake, Nancy Blake
“Big Rock Candy Mountain”
“You Are My Sunshine”
Alison Krauss & Union Station
“Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
“Too Late to Cry”
Dan Tyminski, Pat Enright, Stuart Duncan
“I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”
Emmylou Harris
“To Daddy”
Emmylou Harris, Alan O’Bryant, Dennis Crouch, Mike Compton, Alison Krauss
“The Other Side of Life”
Emmylou Harris
“Blue Kentucky Girl”
Chris Thomas King
“Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”
“John Law Burned Down the Liquor Store”
The Del McCoury Band
“1952 Vincent Black Lightning”
“Get Down on Your Knees and Pray”
Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless
“Nobody but the Baby”
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder
“Rank Strangers”
“Uncle Pen”

INTERMISSION

Jerry Douglas
“A Tribute to Peador O’Donnell”
“A Monkey Let the Hogs Out”
Alison Krauss & Union Station
“Down in the River to Pray”
“I’ll Remember You Love in My Prayers”
Nashville Bluegrass Band
“Gambling Barroom Blues”
“Honky Tonk Swing”
Rodney Crowell, The Nashville Bluegrass Band
“In the Jailhouse Now”
Rodney Crowell
“I Know Love Is All I Need”
Norman Blake
“I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”
“Under The Double Eagle”
Norman Blake, Nancy Blake, Nashville Bluegrass Band
“I Am Weary Let Me Rest”
Patty Loveless, Carmella Ramsey, Jed Hughes, Nashville Bluegrass Band
“Pretty Little Miss”
“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”
Ralph Stanley
“O Death”
Ralph Stanley, Nashville Bluegrass Band
“Girl From the Greenbriar Shore”
Ralph Stanley, Patty Loveless, Nashville Bluegrass Band
“I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”
Entire Cast
“Angel Band”
“Amazing Grace”

Complete list of tour dates.