The headline news with Union Station lately has been guitarist Dan Tyminski’s ascension to minor star status, thanks to the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou? But more relevant to the music itself since the group’s last album with Alison Krauss (1997’s So Long So Wrong) is a lineup change, ubiquitous dobro king Jerry Douglas having replaced mandolinist Adam Steffey.
These changes ultimately add up to nothing much, because Krauss and Union Station have been among the most consistent acts in bluegrass for fifteen years now. Their fans can count on a good batch of songs, energetic but never over-the-top picking (if this weren’t bluegrass, we might be inclined to say their playing is “classy”), a gorgeously unified ensemble sound, and Krauss’ voice, a heavenly gift the likes of which comes around but once in a generation.
Sure, Tyminski’s profile is a bit higher this time out, with four leather ‘n’ wood lead vocals on the harder-edged banjo-driven tunes, but that was bound to happen anyway; keeping a set of pipes like his in the background would be a waste. Douglas gets an instrumental feature (”Choctaw Hayride”), and there’s the inevitable classic-rock cover (”Stars” from Dan Fogelberg’s debut disc Home Free). If only Krauss would treat herself, and us, to a bang-up fiddle instrumental with each new disc…but it seems churlish to ask for more than New Favorite delivers, which is plenty.