Who ever said that a musician has to wear black, sling a guitar and sing of life on the run to be considered an outlaw?
With a beautiful afternoon set at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre during the Outlaw Music Festival – Willie Nelson and Blackbird Presents’ traveling tour which made a stop at the Tinley Park venue on June 28 – Alison Krauss established a renegade sound on her own terms. Wearing the rebellious armor of a flowing, floral dress, the bluegrass legend wielded her fiddle and her oh-so-perfect vocals to steal the hearts of fans with re-imagined covers and original tunes.
“Thank you so much. This is so great to be here,” said Krauss early in her set noting that she grew up in Champaign and that her dad is a native of Oak Park.
Along with Krauss’ sweet and unapologetically feminine melodies, a unique tone was set with a stage design – complete with glowing street lamps and promotional posters for Glenn Miller, The Duke of Paducah and the Stars of WSM at the Grand Ole Opry – that transported festival-goers back to the 1940s. Other eras were visited musically as Krauss’ covers – including “I Never Cared for You” and “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” both by the event’s headliner, the above-mentioned Nelson – further explored the decades.
“The Lucky One,” Krauss’ breezy, seemingly effortless tune with The Union Station, showcased her inviting vocals before concluding with a gorgeous violin phrase. Fans were often swept away in the moment with couples slow-dancing in the aisle during her 1995 hit “When You Say Nothing at All.”
Pickers and grinners alike relished in the bluegrass jams featured in “It’s Goodbye and So Long to You” and “Sawing on the Strings” as Krauss and her band – Barry Bales, Jay Bellerose, Ron Block, Sidney Cox, Jeff White, James Mitchell and Matt Rollings – traded licks with vigor. “When I’ve Done the Best I Can, I Want My Crown,” built into a honky tonk hoedown to end all hoedowns in an unabashed celebration of musical collaboration.
The crowd stilled to a hush during moments of a capella performance as Krauss’ pure vocals on “Down to the River to Pray” and “Go to Sleep You Little Baby” hypnotized fans in real life, just as they did to characters on the silver screen when featured in the Coen brothers film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?.” A post standing ovation rendition of “It Is Well With My Soul” concluded the spiritual journey with heartwarming appeal.
As viral videos, social media jabs and click bait dominate the mainstream conversation, Krauss earns her outlaw status by personifying beauty, artistry, integrity and kindness with an unflinching commitment to musical virtuosity.