Shadows

Today is the birthday of contemporary country/bluegrass artist Alison Krauss; she turns 40. Krauss became a star in the world of bluegrass music as a teen-age fiddle champion. She signed with Rounder Records at the age of 14. It wasn’t long, however, before her outstanding vocal talents eclipsed her instrumental prowess. Rounder gave her the time and the space to develop from a prodigy into the artist she is today.

Krauss has become a huge star in her own right and nevertheless held her band, Union Station, together. They put on a great live show. Reviewing one of their shows in 1999, Ben Ratfliff gushed in the New York Times: “[T]hey turn their attention to one another and achieve something as close to perfection as can be found in popular music: a fully integrated sound in which the musicians, fully at ease, melt their projections together so that it’s hard to tell who’s playing what.” I want to take the occasion of Krauss’s birthday to post a favorite video of her with Union Station and guest.

Twenty years after Tony Rice called on resophonic guitar virtuoso Jerry Douglas and friends to record Gordon Lightfoot’s “Shadows” with him on Native American, Krauss decided to record the song as well. She assembled Union Station — Dan Tyminski, Ron Block, Barry Bales and Douglas — to back her on it.

Rice must have had something to do with inspiring her to record the song. Paying tribute to Rice in her own way, she invited him to sit in and help out on guitar.

All about aging and regret, this intriguing song has never sounded better, or more poignant. Of all the songs included on Lightfoot’s four-disc retrospective, “Shadows” was the one song I wanted Lightfoot to illuminate, but it proved to be the only song on which he declined to comment.

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