Alison Krauss + Union Station Cut Up on MWL

Although she squirms when folks fawn over her, Alison Krauss nonetheless charmed a small studio audience in Nashville during the Friday night (Feb. 21) taping of MWL Special: Alison Krauss & Union Station Live.

Broadcast live on CMT, Krauss and the members of the band — Barry Bales, Ron Block, Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminksi — politely honored song requests from audience members as well as from emails and phone calls from across the country. In between, they whispered and kidded around with each other, making faces and fiddling around with their instruments.

Certainly, while much of AKUS’ material is melancholy, the quintet offered a jovial hour-and-a-half concert. After the seductive “Let Me Touch You for Awhile” and the driving “Bright Sunny South,” host Katie Cook asked a handful of questions about the band’s new concert album. Krauss rarely grants interviews, so it was enlightening for the audience to hear her talk about her inspirations.

“When you make a live record, it represents your whole time of playing, and you want to make sure you’ve got the right choices and the right tunes, and you just hope that people like it,” Krauss said.

Tyminski added, “I think that’s what all of us were afraid of most, was that [feeling of] ‘Boy, I hope we get this in one take.’ I love the rewind button myself, so it made it a challenge.”

After “The Lucky One,” the audience tried to keep up with the complex instrumental “Choctaw Hayride,” featuring Douglas’ astounding skill on the Dobro. When Cook appeared with more questions, the band cracked a few jokes about snoring and bad habits on the road. But the comic relief turned to romance as the band offered one of its signature songs, “Baby, Now That I Found You.”

Cook mentioned that, in 1991, Krauss filmed her first music video in the same studio where this special was being filmed. Krauss shrugged off the coincidence. “I remember when I saw it, I’m like, ‘What’s the deal with the eyebrows?’ It was like, ‘Somebody get the tweezers out please, as fast as you can.’ I looked a little bit like a cross-dresser on there.”

On a more serious note, Krauss stepped to the mic for three songs featuring her yearning soprano: “There Is a Reason,” “Forget About It” and “When You Say Nothing at All.”

The biggest reaction of the night came after just a few words from a call-in listener: “Man of Constant Sorrow.” The studio audience leapt to its feet before the first note — and of course, after the final string had been plucked. In between, it was clear that the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack has brought AKUS a wider and very enthusiastic audience.

With just a few minutes remaining in the broadcast, Cook invited Krauss to perform any song she wished. She and the band launched into the jazz-inflected “Oh, Atlanta,” followed by a rousing finale of the instrumental “Cluck Old Hen.”

After the curtain call, several audience members could be overheard commenting how the 90-minute special flew past. But for fans of AKUS, the special offered unique insight to the personalities behind one of the most acclaimed bands in bluegrass.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.