Alison Krauss TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa ON, June 26
Published Jun 27, 2018On Tuesday night, acclaimed country singer Alison Krauss's performance outside Ottawa City Hall felt like a homecoming of sorts.
Part of that had to do with the main stage's Southern transformation: an attempt at intimacy — best described by the Illinois-bred artist as an "old shed" — that featured canopy lights, old wooden columns and a repurposed street lantern, as well as a glowing, miniature house at the front of the stage that looked like a Christmas ornament come to life.
But it was also due to the fact that, despite the nearby Ottawa Valley and its city transplants being steeped in the sounds of bluegrass, it's been years since Krauss and her band has made a trek to the area.
Her absence can be excused.
Following Union Station's 2011 album Paper Airplane, Krauss took a six-year break from full-fledged recording before returning last year with Windy City. Her Ottawa Jazz Fest performance featured a selection of songs from that album, but really shone the spotlight on the long and illustrious career she's had with her bandmates, which — in the case of her Cox Family collaborators — stretches back 30 years.
Having toured since she was a preteen, Krauss can deliver pitch-perfect renditions of her recordings with the ease of the seasoned professional that she is, channelling the wistful memories of love — longed for and lost — and sublime melodies that are documented on her albums and continue to resonate with fans.
Striding onto the stage in an emerald green dress, Krauss and her bandmates captivated the close-knit crowd within seconds of "River in the Rain."
Bona fide classics like "Baby Now That I've Found You," "Forget About It" and "Stay" reminded festivalgoers why the bluegrass champion continues to rake up nominations and Grammy wins (she's the most-awarded singer and female artist in the academy's history): her seraphic soprano — whether she's performing classic country or adult contemporary — easily cuts through the chords and chaos of the stage.
But it was when Krauss and her band really stripped things down (performing a cappella, in the case of O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack standout "Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby," or with no more than two guitars and a condenser microphone) that the full scope of her prowess as a performer could be heard.
With a string of successful solo albums, and highly regarded collaborations with the likes of Gillian Welch, Brad Paisley, John Prine and Robert Plant under her belt, it would be easy for Krauss to call it a day. Thankfully, at 46 years old, she's showing no signs of slowing down.