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ALISON KRAUSS: A HUNDRED MILES OR MORE

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, Tony Rice, James Taylor, John Waite, Union Station
Director:  Michael McNamara
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Color Widescreen 1.33:1
Studio: Rounder Records
Features:  See Review
Length:  38 minutes
Release date:  November 11, 2008

“But you’re just a country boy

Money have you none

But you’ve got silver in the stars

And gold in the morning sun

Gold in the morning sun.” 

Film ****

Now and then someone comes along who not only has a wonderful vocal talent, but also the timbre and emotion that grabs a listener.  Then a select few of these have a gift of phrasing and emotion that is unique.  There are only a few of these in the whole world, but Alison Krauss is one of those singers.  Everything she sings is as if no one else ever sang it before, and never will again.  Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald often did this with big bands and jazz combos, performing standards that had been done many times before and since, but never the same way again.  Krauss has done this as well, carving out a niche that mixes bluegrass and acoustic musicians playing catchy songs without any schmaltz or false pretense.  Her singing is moonstruck but not maudlin, vulnerable and true.  There is fine Dobro guitar here from the one and only Jerry Douglas, but no weepy pedal steel. 

Modern country music is plagued with songs that appeal to city slickers who want to work on farms, but really have no authentic inspiration at all.  Only now and then are they honest and delicate like classical chamber music or a jazz trio, but as Brad Paisley states in his interview here Krauss’s mistakes are still better than most good takes by other people.  As James Taylor explains, her delivery is cool and detached, which allows her to do such emotionally heavy material. 

Her most recent CD release A Hundred Miles or More included tracks which were brand new along with others that were not available on her own albums.  The first track, quoted above, would make even Scrooge cry.  Simple Love is also a testament to basic country living without dumbing it down.  Bluegrass is usually the domain of fast pickers and grinners but here

This special was filmed for CMT and is basically a companion to the CD.  The takes here are the same ones on the CD except that you only have eight tunes. 

Krauss can be southern gothic as in Whiskey Lullaby with Brad Paisley, a song that (as explained here in interviews) was passed around Nashville without any takers because even though it is a stunning composition, no singer wanted to attempt wrapping their vocals around a song about suicide.  But leave it to Krauss to pull it off.  Jacob’s Dream is almost as murky, with its true story of the disappearance of two young boys in the mountains.      

Audio ***

Only stereo, like the CD.  The mixing of interviews, etc. is all fine but I am shocked that no one did a 5.1 mix.

Video  ****

Only full screen, obviously meant just for television, but perfectly shot with smooth panning and plenty of shots of the wonderful musicians.

Features ***

None as such but there are interviews interspersed with the songs.  They are the usual mutual admiration society sort of things but we do learn about Tony Rice, a giant in bluegrass but probably unknown to most modern country fans (including me).  His skill on guitar is not to be missed.  The musicians discuss their backgrounds and how they arrived at this style. 

Summary:

Too short but an excellent companion to the CD, ideally they would have released them together but both are worth the price in any case for their soaring musical quality.  This DVD is more evidence of why rock is waning and country just seems to win more converts. 

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