Barry Bales

Jerry Douglas at BB King

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Last night we saw Jerry Douglas (and band) at BB King. Opening for them were The Wrights. I’ll cover The Wrights after I review Jerry Douglas, and then finish up with my usual venue summary.

We’ve seen Jerry Douglas before at the Beacon Theater, August 2nd, 2007, when he played with Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas. I covered that night in this post. That show was incredible, as was Jerry specifically. I also love listening to every note he plays on the many Alison Krauss and Union Station CDs that we own.

In 2008, Alison took a break from touring with Union Station to tour with Robert Plant. That left Union Station on their own. I would have thought (and enjoyed it if) they would have toured as a group. Instead, they decided to form separate efforts. I’ve already covered (twice, here and here) our wonderful experiences with the Dan Tyminski Band (one of the members is Barry Bales, the incredible bass player from Union Station).

Jerry Douglas set out on the road (and recorded a new CD called Glide, due out in July) with his own band. For those of you who don’t know, Jerry Douglas primarily plays the Dobro. He also plays a lap steel guitar, and probably other instruments, but mostly, it’s the Dobro.

Jerry Douglas

That said, it’s not accurate to simply say he plays the Dobro. Many people (perhaps even everyone) consider Jerry to be the world’s greatest dobro player. Read his bio if you want to be awed by his accomplishments, independent of being awed by the actual music! For the lazy among you, here’s a one paragraph highlight:

His transcendent technique and his passionate musicality have helped him net twelve Grammy Awards and numerous International Bluegrass Music Association awards. Douglas holds the distinction of being named Musician of the Year by The Country Music Association (2002, 2005, 2007), The Academy of Country Music (ten times), and The Americana Music Association (2002, 2003). In June 2004, the National Endowment for The Arts honored Douglas with a National Heritage Fellowship, recognizing his artistic excellence and contribution to the nation’s traditional arts.

I bolded the mind-boggling stats above. πŸ™‚

It’s not really possible to describe to you how he plays, but here’s my feeble attempt nonetheless. On his right hand, he has picks on every finger. All of his fingers are moving faster than is humanly possible, simultaneously. In his left hand he holds a slide bar, and he presses it on the strings and slides it back and forth. He produces sounds that would seem to require having all five fingers at different fret locations on the neck, but he does it all (magically, mysteriously), by just moving his left hand faster than the eye can see. Whew.

All of the technical wizardry would be interesting, but meaningless, if it wasn’t for the fact the the sound he produces is heavenly!

So, he could come on stage by himself, and captivate any audience, no other musicians need apply. I have no doubt of that. Is that what he does? Of course not. Given his enormous talent, any musician would jump at the opportunity to play with Jerry. He has a band that proves that point, and each of them is worth their own mention. I’ll cover them in the order that they appeared on stage (left-to-right), but you can also read the band bios at your convenience (also linked at the top of this post, yes, they’re good enough to earn two links). Here’s a photo of all of them together on stage:

Jerry Douglas Band

Guthrie Trapp played the guitar (two different electric guitars and an acoustic one as well). He’s a noted Mandolin player, but didn’t play it last night. It would be hard to describe how absolutely awesome Guthrie is. He’s so fast, so smooth, plays in a variety of styles, and nails every single one of them.

One of the most impressive things is when he and Jerry are playing some fast licks together, and he keeps up with his end of the bargain, something not too many guitarists could do with Jerry being the other half of the duet!

I could go on an on, and you still wouldn’t get the sense. Here’s a YouTube video of him playing with a small band doing a bluegrass number, on an electric guitar. If you’re intrigued, just Google Guthrie Trapp and you can find a bunch more videos, both on YouTube and on MySpace. Guthrie melted the crowd into a puddle every time he took a solo!

Guthrie TrappGuthrie Trapp Acoustic

Doug Belote played the drums. A total pro who entertained the entire evening, in an understated (but superb) jazz-style the entire show. He’s not as flashy as some of the drummers we’ve seen recently, but he’s every bit as solid.

Doug Belote

Todd Parks played the upright bass. In addition to playing a solid bass line all night, he took a few exceptional solos, demonstrating a real feel for the music, rather than just banging on the strings to show technical prowess. Well done!

Todd Parks

Luke Bulla played the fiddle most of the night, and the acoustic guitar on one number. He also sang the only two songs that had vocals. He has an excellent voice. As a fiddle player, he’s one of the fastest and cleanest I’ve ever seen/heard. That should come as no surprise for two separate (but obviously related) reasons. First, he has played with (and therefore was chosen by) some of the greatest musicians around, including Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile and of course, now, Jerry Douglas.

The second reason is his mind-boggling accomplishments. In case you didn’t bother to click over to his extensive bio, here’s a relevant paragraph:

Touring with and singing in his family band from age four, Luke took up the fiddle at seven. Over the course of the next few years, he won the National Fiddle Contest (in Weiser, Idaho) six times in his respective age categories. His seventh win came in the Grand Champion division at age sixteen, making him the youngest to have earned the title at the time.

Wow! He’s nothing short of amazing, and given what I’m about to say next, I need to make you realize that I really mean that! That said, while he’s technically brilliant, for me personally, he doesn’t move me on the fiddle. I mention it only because I’ve covered a number of fiddle players in this space, including a number that totally get to me, and I wanted to draw the distinction. If you care, just search for fiddle in the box on the top right of the page.

To put a fine point on it (and show a small world angle as well), while Luke was playing, I kept thinking that he sounded very much like Jean Luc Ponty. That’s a compliment, not an insult. New Country (on Ponty’s Imaginary Voyage CD) is still one of my all-time favorite fiddle tunes. When I was reading Guthrie’s bio today, he mentions a very wide variety of musical influences. Included among them is Jean Luc Ponty, which gave me a hearty chuckle, given that I couldn’t get Ponty’s name out of my mind last night whenever Luke played!

To be clear, there were many people in the crowd last night that went nuts every single time Luke took a solo, deservedly so.

Luke Bulla Singing

Wrapping it all up, they played a number of songs from the upcoming CD, Glide, expected to be released this July. They played some old favorites as well, including perhaps my personal favorite Jerry Douglas number: Choctaw Hayride. Here’s a YouTube video of Jerry doing it with Alison Krauss and Union Station. In this video, Alison Krauss plays the part of Luke Bulla, Dan Tyminski plays the part of Guthrie Trapp, Barry Bales plays the part of Todd Parks, and Ron Block plays the banjo (beautifully!), an instrument not seen in last night’s amazing performance of this incredible song.

Quite a number of the pieces (including the opening number) were significantly more Jazz than Country or Bluegrass. They were awesome too (as I love Jazz). The majority were more straight-up Country, with some Bluegrass thrown in for good measure.

Toward the end of the show, Jerry introduced a song called Patrick Meets the Brickbats which he wrote for his son, Patrick. He said “this is a slow number”. You can judge for yourself how slow it is on this awesome version on YouTube.

All in all, Jerry is funny, nice, and simply one of the most amazing musicians alive. He was also kind enough to sign our brand new CD of his (American Master Series – Best of the Sugar Hill Years). He had to go backstage to find a Sharpie, but he did, and we appreciate it! πŸ™‚

Including a two-song encore, they were on stage for 100 minutes. Generous enough, but made even better by the fact that they didn’t use the excuse of having The Wrights open for them to cut their show short. That made for a much longer night than usual at BB King, but every person in the audience appreciated it to the very last drop!

OK, enough, there were more people deserving of praise, and it’s finally time to get to them as well! πŸ™‚

The Wrights (this time, I linked to their MySpace page, above was their own website) opened the show at 8:01pm. They are a married couple. Adam plays the electric guitar and Shannon plays the acoustic guitar. Both are excellent musicians. If you want a taste of Adam’s guitar skills, you can listen to the instrumental Tire B Flat on the above-linked MySpace page. He won’t be confused for the likes of Guthrie, but he’s really good, and totally a pleasure to listen to.

Here they are tuning their guitars:

The Wrights Tuning

However, that’s not what makes The Wrights special, and indeed, special they are! Lois has been following them for a while now, and we already owned their debut album Down This Road. It’s great! They wrote all of the songs on it, and as you know from these pages, nothing impresses Lois more than a great songwriter, made even more special when they also happen to be fantastic performers of their own music!

Both of them write, and both of them sing lead (extremely well!) generally alternating songs between them. All along, they sing with rich and beautiful harmonies (and you all know, we’re suckers for great harmonies!).

Their songs are varied, but many of them have a fantastic sense of humor in them, while conveying real life in a deep and effective manner. We loved hearing On The Rocks (from the Down This Road CD) live. It’s fun (and true for most newlyweds) and they did it to perfection last night.

Both of them have a very warm style on stage and were instantly a hit with the crowd. Adam is so self-deprecating, but in a way that is warming and continually funny. One of their more beautiful songs (the last one on the Down This Road CD) is called You Get The Thorns. They did it wonderfully last night.

They were on stage for 40 minutes, every single one of those minutes thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance! This was the first time they performed in NYC. They acquitted themselves perfectly! πŸ™‚

Here are each of them individually:

Adam WrightShannon Wright

There is an overwhelming gentleness about both of them, on stage and off. Watching them was almost zen-like it the calmness that it produced in me. They are also really nice! Lois bought their new CD (The Wrights) and wanted it signed by them. She got to tell that to Adam while he was unplugging his guitar after his set.

She couldn’t find him between sets, and asked the person working the door to let The Wrights know she was looking for them. He did, and they bothered to come look for her, and after Jerry’s set we were able to say hi, get the CD signed, and get a picture of Lois with them! Thanks Adam and Shannon, we can’t wait to see you again!

Lois and The Wrights

Some words about the venue. The night before, we were also at BB King to see Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo (reviewed here). That night was crazy crowded with roughly 700 people crammed into BB King, the most I’ve ever seen there.

Last night was not sold out, though there was an extremely healthy-sized crowd, all of whom loved the show. If I had to guess, there were between 300-350 people there (normally, BB King can seat 450). We got to sit one table to the left (dead center this time) of our exact two seats from the night before. This time, no one sat in the middle seats of our six-seat table, and a very nice couple sat at the remaining two seats.

Because the place wasn’t as crowded, and because the music wasn’t going to be loud rock, BB King’s matched the mood (as they usually do) with more folk music (much softer as well) before the show started. Between The Wrights and Jerry Douglas, they played Dylan exclusively. Because the volume of the music was so much lower, conversing was much more enjoyable last night.

Unfortunately, it was the night before when we had company that we really wanted to talk to (we talk enough to each other) πŸ˜‰ and the fact that they were warming up the capacity crowd on Tuesday with blaring rock made me (and probably others) hoarse trying to scream over the music. I’ll take last night’s version of a more mellow warm up any day!

The amazing crab cake that I had the night before was offered again as a special (by the same waiter we had the night before) and I couldn’t resist it again. It did not disappoint. I am convinced the chef is using some magic fairy dust to bind the crab to the other goodies he’s putting in there.

Everything went great last night at BB King, including the staff being wonderful (as usual), with one notable exception. When The Wrights came on the stage, the house lights never went off. Often, this kind of gaffe can be an unwitting signal to the crowd to be rude and ignore the warm up group. Thankfully, while the house lights never went down the entire time The Wrights were on the stage, the crowd was totally in to their performance, and there were no distractions to everyone enjoying the show. Whew!

We didn’t get out of there until 10:55pm, and walked home leisurely, stopping in Grand Central on the way. A lovely evening indeed. We’re hoping to duplicate it again tonight, when we’re back at BB King (third night in a row) to see The Proclaimers!

OK, to finish off, you know the drill. Just one week left in the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Win a signed CD, free, of this amazing band, Girlyman.

Dan Tyminski Band at The Egg

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On March 1st, we saw the Dan Tyminski Band (DTB) at the Birchmere Theater. I wrote a long post about that which you can read here if you wish.

After we saw them (and bought lots of their music), we continued to be energized by their amazing performance. I noticed that they were going to be in Albany, NY, at The Egg, on April 20th.

That’s roughly 2.5 hours north of our house, not exactly a place we frequent regularly. On the other hand, it seems that no matter where we are, Dan and the boys seem to be roughly two hours north of us. πŸ˜‰ When they played at the Birchmere, we spent the previous night in Richmond, VA, roughly two hours south of there. So, it seemed fitting to grab tickets and plan our road trip.

We left the house at 4pm and arrived in the underground parking lot at The Egg at around 6:25pm. I ate my dinner in the car, underground. Exactly the way I like it. πŸ˜‰

We got to the elevator in the lobby and both immediately noticed that Dan Tyminski himself was waiting to go up in the same elevator as we were! Lois excitedly pulled out her CD (the one we bought at the Birchmere and had signed by Dan) and asked him to sign it. He immediately spotted his own signature, and told her it was signed. She told him where it was signed originally, and that she wanted a memento from The Egg as well. He was kind enough to oblige and ended up signing it again in the elevator on the way up.

Dan Tyminski

He’s extremely tall (I had no idea). Skipping ahead for a minute, Barry Bales is significantly taller, and from our vantage, even Adam Steffey appeared to be a drop taller than Dan, making them a bunch of giants. πŸ˜‰

When we got off the elevator we were in another lobby waiting for the theater doors to open. They opened at roughly 6:50pm for a 7pm show. The Egg has two theaters in it. We were in the Lewis A. Sawyer theater, which seats 450 people and is arranged in an amphitheater style. There is a nice height differential between the rows so that essentially, even the worst seat in the house, isn’t all that bad. We were in the 10th row (second from last), but not too far left of center. We were a tad nervous in advance, but they were excellent seats.

The band came on the stage a 7:07pm. It appeared that they were only using microphones for their instruments (unless they all had wireless jacks to their amps). Definitely no electronic tuners. I mention this mostly because within 15 seconds of walking on stage, they were already playing a fast upbeat number. Tight and wonderful, as expected.

The crowd was clearly in love with Dan and the band. Dan joked that people in the south aren’t aware of all of the Bluegrass lovers in the north. Clearly, there are many! πŸ™‚

The band’s bios can be read here.

Appearing left-to-right (same order as at the Birchmere) were Ron Stewart, Adam Steffey, Barry Bales, Dan Tyminski and Justin Moses.

Ron StewartAdam SteffeyBarry BalesJustin Moses

They were all brilliant last night. Ron Stewart played mostly banjo, but also was awesome on the two numbers where he played fiddle. Adam played the mandolin exclusively, and was mind-boggling. The crowd begged Dan to turn Adam loose, and he did, and Adam blew us all away! Barry was amazing on the bass (as he always is), and sang harmonies with Dan and Justin.

Dan was great all night. My one semi-complaint at the Birchmere was that Dan didn’t take enough guitar leads (he’s superb!). I don’t know if he read my blog for that show, but last night he took considerably more leads (thanks Dan!), but they were still all short. He’s very generous with the rest of the guys, and I think he feels guilty that his name is on the door and that he’s singing non-stop.

Finally, Justin Moses. This guy is simply killer! He played fiddle most of the night. Dobro on one song, and banjo on another (those are the two songs that Ron played the fiddle on). He also is the primary harmonizer with Dan (even on songs that Barry doesn’t sing), and he’s terrific on every instrument and singing as well.

I really like his solo CD which we bought at Birchmere.

When they wrapped it up they received one of the fastest (and complete) standing ovations I have ever seen. It was almost like there was a spring in each of our chairs, propelling us out to show our appreciation for their talent. They left the stage briefly and came back for a one-song encore. In total, 93 minutes on stage. A little on the short side, but thoroughly satisfying in every way.

One of the fascinating things was the entirely different feel of a theater like environment vs a dinner-theater venue. We like the dinner theater ones (Joe’s Pub, BB King, Blue Note, Birchmere, Highline Ballroom, etc.), but, having fixed seats, that all face the stage has it’s plusses as well. Last night, with the steep height differential between the rows, we also had another change in perception. We were looking down on the band (by quite a bit), whereas at Birchmere, we were looking up at them from a remote table.

The perspective was interesting.

We were extremely glad we made the drive. We were home at 11pm, so not all that bad!

We’ve already pre-ordered the new CD (Wheels) expected to be shipped in late June. First 500 people get a signed copy, so we’re hoping we ordered early enough.

At the Birchmere, Dan broke a string during one number. I am reasonably sure he replaced the string off stage. Last night, Dan broke a string in the middle of a number. He waited until Ron started a banjo solo, and while Ron played, followed by Adam taking a solo, Dan actually replaced the string on stage, while singing, and ended up playing the guitar during the end of the song. Bravo! πŸ™‚

One final thing. These guys clearly love playing together, and being together. They banter hysterically on the stage, with Adam handling more of the duties than Dan, but they all partake (except for Justin, who is the target of some of the banter). Here is a shot that captures some of that mood. πŸ™‚

Dan Tyminski and Adam Steffey Fooling Around

Almost forgot, but at least I didn’t, to remind the rest of you to get your entries in to the Girlyman Live CD Contest. Only 9 days left to win a signed copy of Girlyman’s new Live CD. Enter now!!!

Dan Tyminski Band at the Birchmere Theater

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I’ve known about the Birchmere Theater for at least six months now, perhaps a little more. For the past seven years that we’ve been coming down regularly to Fredericksburg, VA, we weren’t paying attention to the live music scene here, spending all of our music time in NY. That all changed when we saw The Wailin’ Jennys at Gravity Lounge in Charlotesville, VA on November 17th, 2007.

Ever since that event, I have at least paid a little attention to what’s going on in VA when we’re down here. Over time, I noticed that lots of artists that we truly love play the Birchmere. In reading about it, it sounded like a great place to see a show, and many famous artists claim their start at the Birchmere.

We nearly went there a few months ago, I think to see Ricky Skaggs (one of our favorites). One of our hesitations was that it was a general admission type of place. That can always be a risk. Many of our favorite places in NYC are general admission as well. While it can be annoying (and at times even painful), at least we know the drill at those places, and we play whatever game we need to in order to get good seats (most of the time). In the end, we decided not to risk it for Ricky, with other factors tipping the scale as well.

A while ago, I noticed that the Dan Tyminski Band was scheduled at the Birchmere on March 1, 2008 (last night). We love Dan Tyminski. He’s the primary guitar player in Union Station of Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas fame. He’s also the voice of George Clooney (well, the singing voice) πŸ˜‰ in the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

We saw Alison Krauss and Union Station at the Beacon Theater. Dan Tyminski was awesome that night, as were all of the members of Union Station. That included the bass player, Barry Bales, who is now the bass player for the Dan Tyminski Band as well. Not only is he an incredible bass player, he sings harmony on many numbers and his voice is fabulous!

We decided to take the plunge and get tickets. The night before we saw the Jennys at Gravity Lounge, we had dinner with two of the single employees at Zope Corporation. We asked them if they wanted to join us for the Jennys, but both had plans. They both indicated interest in being invited to a future event.

So, when we decided to see the Dan Tyminski Band, Lois send out a blind invitation to a number of the single people in the company that had expressed an interest in live music in the past. Two of them were available and interested, so we bought four tickets.

Because I didn’t know anything about the Birchmere, I made some assumptions, which (of course) turned out to be wrong. I gathered a list of 10 restaurants that were all very close to the theater, and sent links to three of them to the two guys. They both picked Lilians (which was likely my first choice as well). Here is how the one review (linked above) begins:

This place is rad. Imagine a squad of fine latin women dressed in short black skirts and revealing tops serving drinks and awesome Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine.

When I mentioned this to another friend of mine, he said “Sounds like a Spanish Hooters!” Indeed, I wonder why two single guys, roughly half my age, would have any interest in eating at Lilian’s? πŸ˜‰

Yesterday morning, I did something that I should have done before I asked them where they wanted to eat. I went to the Birchmere website, and read their FAQ. I immediately found out that this place is like most of the general admission places in NYC, meaning they serve dinner at the place. That’s one of the few positives about general admission. You have to show up very early, but at least you can relax, eat, drink and enjoy yourself without then rushing to make it to the show.

Unfortunately, we never got to experience the Spanish Hooters directly, but perhaps, some day. I love Mexican food, enjoyed the one Salvadoran meal I’ve ever had, and now feel the overwhelming need to report back to my loyal readers whether the rest of the review is accurate as well. πŸ˜‰

So, we picked up the two guys and headed north, early. My plan was to get there by 5pm when the ticket doors open, then perhaps wander around the neighborhood a bit, returning at 6pm when the theater doors open. The best laid plans…

I have a GPS (I’ve written about it before, when mentioning that it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given). I set the address and off we went. When I was coming up on the exit, I was telling a story. I heard the GPS telling me that I needed to make a left, but she’s often a little late with the voice prompts, and I was certainly late in following the directions. I missed the exit. No biggie, because the GPS always tells you what to do.

The only problem was that we ended up crossing the Potomac River into Washington, D.C, before she guided us back (yes, since the voice in the GPS is female, Lois and I believe that the GPS itself is a woman) so the detour was much longer than expected. We didn’t get to the theater until roughly 5:15pm. We received ticket number I11, and had no idea whether that was good or bad.

Different than all of the other general admission places that we’ve been to in NYC, there is a very large indoor space at the Birchmere, where you can comfortably wait until the 6pm doors open. There is a bar, but no pressure to buy any kind of drink. Lots of seats (tables and benches). What an incredibly nicer way to treat your early arrivers than in NYC, where we stand like idiots in a line on the sidewalks outside of our favorite clubs…

We relaxed and chatted. The 45 minutes passed quickly. At 5:57pm, they announced how the numbers (our I11) worked. They called out every single number, in order, so there was no reason to rush the door. Wow, exactly as the FAQ explained it, and on time like clockwork. Regular readers will know that my appreciation for this type of behavior is over the moon.

The Birchmere understands the two most critical rules of customer service:

  1. Communicate clearly with your customers and prospects (set expectations!)
  2. Deliver the exact experience that you communicated

Could it be any simpler than that? No, but it’s the rarest of companies that delivers even #1 (the easy one!), and you can count on one hand the number of companies that then deliver #2…

They started last night with H49. That meant that we would have a bit of a wait to be called, but it shouldn’t be too brutal. That was correct. H49-H99, then I00-I11. Roughly 15 minutes, I think. But, we were indoors, seated, and knew exactly when we would be called. More than acceptable.

When we got into the theater, we immediately liked what we saw. The layout was similar (with some very significant differences) to BB King in NYC. Lots of tables, most seating 12 people (some smaller tables as well). Nothing was left near the stage, but there was an empty table for 12 2/3’s of the way back on the left side of the stage, with what appeared to be a fantastic view of the stage. We grabbed the first two seats on either side of the table and settled in.

We ordered drinks and food (mostly comfort food, burgers, BBQ, chili, salads, etc.). Food was wonderful (I had the pulled pork BBQ sandwich with homemade chips and spicy coleslaw). Everyone liked their meal. Service was excellent.

I am pretty sure that the concert was sold out, but there was a seat or two empty, likely from people who ended up simply not showing up after buying their tickets. I tried to guess the number of people, and my guess was 600 tops, but definitely between 500-600. BB King seats 400, and this place seemed to seat more (not that it was larger, but BB King has the bar inside, where the space at the Birchmere was filled with tables).

The show started at exactly 7:30pm, as advertised. The band came out to wild applause, and began playing fairly quickly. They were instantly awesome. Five people on stage. I’ve covered two of them already (Dan and Barry Bales). From left-to-right, here were the remaining three players: Ron Stewart, Adam Steffey and Justin Moses.

Ron Stewart primarily played the banjo (amazingly), but also played a mean fiddle on a couple of tunes. Ron reminded me of poker superstar Daniel Negreanu, and I couldn’t get the image out of my mind of a poker-playing banjo player. Ron talked a bit, but never sang a single note. Ron is one of the best banjo players I have ever seen/heard. Bela Fleck is perhaps considered the best, and we’ve seen him, and perhaps he’s better, but Ron is close. We’ve also seen Ricky Skagg’s banjo player, and he won banjo player of the year six times.

Adam Steffey played the mandolin, brilliantly. He was also incredibly funny, reminding both Lois and me of Bill Engvall. He only sang on one song (lead!). He was great, with a very deep voice, but perfectly pitched. It was surprising to me (after hearing him) that he didn’t participate more in the vocals. Adam is one of the greatest mandolin players I’ve ever heard/seen. He is so clean it’s amazing. He’s fast too.

Unlike the Ron Stewart vs Bela Fleck comparison above though, I think that Chris Thile is even more incredible than Adam. That’s not to take anything away from Adam. It’s like comparing Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson. Phil’s no slouch, and neither is Adam. πŸ™‚

Justin Moses played the fiddle (mostly), but also played the banjo and the dobro. He was masterful on all three, but in particular, was amazing on the fiddle. He sang harmony all night with Dan and Barry, and hit a lot of high notes perfectly.

Steffey, Bales and TyminskiRon Stewart and Justin Moses

The five of them are all amazing talents individually, who blend together to form a perfect bluegrass band. I should mention that Dan sang his heart out all night. He is also an extraordinary guitarist, but last night, he gave 99% of the solos to the rest of the band, and only played lead guitar in two or three numbers, and those were short licks. He anchored the music with great rhythm guitar all night, along with Barry’s amazing bass playing.

As amazing as Union Station are (and they are truly amazing), many of Alison Krauss’ songs are very slow, and sometimes quiet. Talented musicians can shine on those numbers as well, but more up-tempo numbers give them more opportunity to show their wares.

Last night, there wasn’t a slow song in the bunch. Every single song had a driving beat (with no drum in sight!), with energy that had every person tapping their feet or swaying their heads, that had them sweating their little hearts out on stage. It was simply fabulous.

The crowd erupted into a standing ovation at the end of the show, and they played one song for an encore without leaving the stage in between.

I went up to one of the staff after the show and asked what the seating capacity was. 500, so I was correct on my estimation of the range. πŸ™‚

After the show, Lois bought two DVDs (one by Ron Stewart and the other by Adam Steffey), and three CDs. None of these merch items are cheap, but it’s one of the most direct ways to support the artists, so we try to do it! Lois then stood in line (she was roughly 15th in a line that ended up getting very long!) and got all five of our goodies signed by the respective artist. Of course, since she’s so unselfish, she had each of them sign it To Hadar. Awwwwww, she’s so sweet. πŸ™‚

Signature Party at Birchmere Theater

We had a fantastic time. We would go see the Dan Tyminski band or any of the individual members again in a heartbeat. We will definitely go again to the Birchmere. It won’t be hard to find a reason to go there, since they have top act after top act. For example, one week ago, David Bromberg and the Angel Band played there. Al Jarreau was there on Feb 12th (two days before we saw him in NYC). Acoustic Alchemy was there in early February (one of my all-time favorite groups) but we were in NY and couldn’t make that show.

Alison Krauss is Awesome

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Last night Lois and I went to see Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas at the Beacon Theater in NYC. We went with our friends who took us to see Harry Connick Jr. at Radio City Music Hall.

We were all looking forward to a wonderful dinner at Ruby Foos first. Of the four of us, I was the only one who had eaten there before, the night of The Allman Brothers Band concert.

Since Lois and I buy our tickets well in advance for most shows, we have a drawer that we keep them in, stacked in the order that the shows will be held. On the day of the show, Lois typically bugs me 10+ times (no, this is not an exaggeration) to make sure I take out the correct set of tickets. I always get annoyed, but we always end up with the correct tickets when we leave the apartment.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, Lois didn’t ask even once if I had taken out the tickets. We got in a cab at 6pm heading to Ruby Foos. At 6:25pm, we were still in the cab, 1/2 a block away from the restaurant, when our friends called my cell. They were running 10 minutes late, and wanted us to order for them. While they were still on the phone, Lois casually asked me whether I had the tickets on me. Of course, I realized instantly that I did not.

Oops. Role reversal. Now I told our friends that we would be the late ones, and that I would call once we were headed back to the restaurant, to see if there was still time for them to order for us. We stayed in the same cab and headed right back to the apartment. When we got there, we asked the driver if he wanted to take us back to the restaurant after waiting 3 minutes for me to go upstairs, and he declined. So, we had a $31.00 cab ride from our apartment, to our apartment…

I grabbed the tickets and we caught a cab to start the entire journey again. At 6:57pm, I called our friends and told them what to order for us. We walked into the restaurant at 7:20pm (the show was called for 8pm). The food was late in coming to the table, around 7:36pm! We asked for the check as the food showed up, and walked out of the restaurant at 7:58pm. The food was amazing (as is the atmosphere there), and Lois and our friends all wanted to return there for a more leisurely dining experience sometime in the future.

Finally, on to the concert. We were seated in plenty of time, and even got to continue schmoozing with our friends for a reasonable time before it started, at roughly 8:20pm.

Alison Krauss has a voice that is nearly as good as Martina McBride (previously reported on by me), but not quite there. One of the few complaints (and yes, I feel silly using that word to describe her stupendous voice) is that she elevates her volume dramatically when she shifts to high notes. She hits them flawlessly, and her voice is crystal clear (at all octaves), but it’s occasionally a tad disconcerting that the volume shift is so pronounced.

While the style of music is eclectic, with a reasonable range, the heart and soul of Alison Krauss’ music is Bluegrass. For 30+ years, I have always liked Bluegrass (and Dixieland as well), but until recently, I never really knew any specific artists. For example, in the past, I used to buy Bluegrass “Collections”, with 20 “hit songs”, for $3 in a bargain bin somewhere. I have a number of those.

As reported previously, after seeing Ricky Skaggs with Bruce Hornsby, and then discovering the Bluegrass channel on XM Radio, I have now come to appreciate specific Bluegrass bands (as well as purchasing a number of their CDs). Ironically, I believe that the real first step in this new discovery was falling in love with Nickel Creek (led by Chris Thile, also previously reported in this blog). I say ironic, because Alison Krauss produced at least one of Nickel Creek’s albums.

I recognized 80% of the songs they played last night from the CDs that I own. I am not crazy about her newest one (and she played 2 or 3 songs from that one last night as well), but I’ve only listened to it straight through once, so perhaps it will grow on me. I can heartily recommend Alison Krauss and Union Station Live (2 volume set) and Lonely Runs Both Ways. They played a bunch of stuff from those CDs, and they were great on all of those numbers.

The crowd was nuts about her and the band, and gave rousing ovations after each and every song (even the ones I could have done without). πŸ˜‰

Talk about loyalty, most of the band members have been together 16+ years! They also were the award winning music behind the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

They performed two songs during the encore. After the first, they quickly (and impressively) rearranged all of the microphones on the stage, and the entire band (sans piano player) got together in the center in a tight grouping, and played an acoustic number called A Living Prayer from the Lonely Runs Both Ways album (the last song on the CD). If you were in the audience, and didn’t get chills when she sang this song, get thee to a doctor (you can pick which kind) right away! πŸ™‚

Anyway, another smashing success in our nice run of fantastic concerts. We both look forward to catching Alison and Union Station again (and again). And, we can’t wait to relax with our good friends at Ruby Foos as soon as possible!