While Krauss' most obvious gift is her ethereal voice, her relationship with the material truly makes her a timeless artist.
“If I get to heaven and the angels sing and they're anything less than Alison Krauss, I'm going to ask to come back.” – Brad Paisley
“When she sings, I believe every word” – Gordon Mote
Filmed for television at Nashville's Tracking Room, Alison Krauss: A Hundred Miles or More, combines live performance with interviews and video clips to create a full picture of the recording process. The program does a wonderful job of highlighting the songs and performers – Alison Krauss and members of her Union Station band, along with other guest musicians – on the nine songs featured.
The DVD opens right into the first song, “You're Just a Country Boy”, and the immediacy of the performance sets the tone for the rest of the show. With the exception of the Gordon Lightfoot cover “Shadows”, the songs performed on the DVD also appeared on her recent CD collection, A Hundred Miles or More. These are songs that offer a full range of Krauss' abilities, as well as her gift in picking songs that she connects with. Krauss says:
I love music. I love music of any form that moves me. I don't care where it comes from and when it's done well, you can't do anything but concentrate on it. It captivates you and that's where your intention goes. You can't do anything else but listen to it.
She may be speaking about the music she loves, but Krauss may as well be describing her own music. Her skill in connecting with the audience is obvious as soon as she begins a song. While Krauss' most obvious gift is her ethereal, almost otherworldly voice, her relationship with the material and the restraint she regularly employs makes her a truly timeless artist. Her performance at the Tracking Room is an excellent showcase for these talents in that the studio setting offers a very no-frills, straightforward production. The members of her Union Station band, as well as the other musicians featured, more than ably serve the material without ever overwhelming it.
Out of the nine songs in the collection, three are duets and they represent three different approaches to collaboration. Her duet with James Taylor on “How's the World Treating You” is a lovely blending of their voices. Taylor, a singer who rarely over sings, is a nice complement to Krauss' equally simple interpretation. Conversely, “Lay Down Beside Me”, her duet with John Waite offers a real contrast in the rough, gravely quality of Waite's voice and Krauss' smooth vocals to create a balance that works especially well as they perform together in the studio.
Her duet with Brad Paisley on “Whiskey Lullaby” is probably the most gratifying in the way that both are so fully in the moment. Paisley interviews that their collaboration was one of the proudest moments in his career.
It's difficult to pull the highlights out of a collection like this because every song is a highlight. However, “Jacob's Dream” should be mentioned as one of the more moving moments in the production. Based on the tragic true story of the Lost Children of the Alleghenies, the song is heartbreaking and Krauss speaks of how strongly the song affected her. Her vocal is haunting and the emotion she conveys through her voice is effortless. By the time she hits the first chorus, it is impossible to be unaffected.
For all the emotion Krauss is able to get across, she is equally adept at creating a loose and lively environment. “Sawing on the Strings” is a spirited take on Tony Rice's version of the song and it's obvious just how much fun the whole band is having in the studio. Rice sits in on the song, as well as on “Shadows”, and his contribution is especially important to Krauss. She lists him as her biggest influence and the artist she would most like to emulate.
Also worth noting is the way the production feels intimate and unobtrusive at the same time, no easy feat. With the combination of performances and interviews, the program delves into the songs and often into the reasons why they were chosen, offering a glimpse into the process of recording. The use of close-ups and video clips also adds to the overall immediacy of the program.
Unfortunately, there are no bonus features to speak of, but the DVD includes more footage than what originally aired on television. It would have been a nice addition to include the full videos that went along with the clips used in the DVD, but for whatever reason they are missing. Of interest may be the fact that the main menu allows the viewer to watch the interviews and performances separately, a nice if somewhat unnecessary feature.