JERRY DOUGLAS could have been a musical innovator on any number of instruments. But as a teenager Douglas adopted the relatively obscure and unexplored dobro, and that decision has helped him carve out a unique place in American music. By discovering the capabilities of this expressive instrument during a period of intense creativity in acoustic music generally, Douglas has wielded incalculable influence on bluegrass and its many related genres. His transcendent technique and his passionate musicality has helped him net six Grammy Awards and six International Bluegrass Music Association Dobro Player of the Year awards. Life magazine named him one of the ten best country musicians of all time, and John Fogerty has lauded him as "my favorite musician." He has collaborated with legends like Ray Charles, premiere vocalists like Maura O'Connell, and envelope-pushing composers like Bill Frisell. Other musicians and producers, including his Union Station band mates, credit him with drawing better performances out of his collaborators.
Douglas grew up in Warren, Ohio, where he recalls lying on the floor as a four- and five-year-old listening to his father's bluegrass band - a collection of West Virginia coalfield refugees who'd come to work in the steel mills of the Midwest. After a few years of guitar, Douglas' father took him to a 1963 Flatt & Scruggs concert, where he heard both of the men who put dobro on the bluegrass map: Brother Oswald Kirby and Uncle Josh Graves. Douglas adapted a Silvertone acoustic guitar to be played dobro-style, and acquired his first real dobro in 1966. By age 13, he was part of his father's West Virginia Travelers, studying Graves and Kirby on record, and creating a new vocabulary of dobro licks by listening to the banjo, fiddle, and guitar.
In 1973, the summer after his junior year in high school, Douglas began touring with the Country Gentlemen, a venerable band that included Doyle Lawson, Bill Emerson, and the young Ricky Skaggs. Skaggs joined banjoist J.D. Crowe's band The New South and convinced Crowe to hire Douglas. When The New South reconfigured in 1975, Douglas and Skaggs stayed together again, teaming with Wes Golding and Terry Baucom to form Boone Creek, a leading band of young musicians renowned for their blending of tradition and innovation. It was during this time that Douglas released his first solo album, Fluxology, in 1979.
That same year, Douglas joined Buck White & The Down Home Folks, an association that continues today and gave him his first major country music exposure. Over the next decade or so, Douglas wrote or contributed to some of the seminal recordings in modern bluegrass and the new acoustic music field, including Manzanita with Tony Rice; Bela Fleck's Drive; Skip, Hop & Wobble with Russ Barenberg and Edgar Meyer; and perhaps most dazzlingly in the newgrass supergroup Strength in Numbers with Sam Bush, Mark O'Connor, Fleck, and Meyer.
Between recording and touring with Alison Krauss + Union Station and others, Douglas records his own albums. His latest solo album Lookout for Hope was released in Spring of 2002. In 2002 the CMA named Jerry Douglas the CMA Musician of the Year, and he was nominated for the same honor in 2003.
BARRY BALES, bass player and harmony vocalist for Alison Krauss + Union Station, grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. His love of bluegrass and "real" country music came from his dad, who plays guitar and mandolin. It was also his father who inspired him to start learning guitar at the age of 10. By 15, Barry had settled on the bass as his instrument of choice, and had begun playing with various local and regional bands. Growing up in east Tennessee, Barry was surrounded by great musicians, many of whom have gone on to make their own mark in bluegrass and country music. It was while performing with many of these musicians that he began traveling in ever-wider musical circles, eventually landing the bass job with Union Station in 1990.
During his tenure with AKUS, Bales has become one of the most in- demand session players in bluegrass and acoustic music. He has recorded and performed with such artists as Reba McEntire, Susan Ashton, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Bowman, The Cox Family, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Dan Tyminski, Fernando Ortega, and many others. Bales also appeared in a cameo role as a musician in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, whose multi-platinum selling soundtrack featured all of Alison Krauss + Union Station in multiple configurations. For his work with AKUS and others, Bales has received seven Grammy Awards, five IBMA Awards, and one Country Music Association Award.
Whenever AKUS is not on the road, Bales is tapped by other bluegrass luminaries and festival promoters for live performances. But his talents aren't recognized only by the bluegrass community. Producer/performer/songwriter T Bone Burnett asked Bales to join him for the theatrical/musical performance of VOID.
When he's not recording or performing live, Bales enjoys fishing, farming, and hunting and can occasionally be persuaded to play a round of golf.
For the past ten years, RON BLOCK has been the spiritual touchstone of Alison Krauss + Union Station, contributing not only sterling musicianship on banjo and guitar, but also a catalogue of beautiful songs that deal mostly with issues of religious faith and devotion. Before joining Union Station, Block was a member of the Lynn Morris Band and Weary Hearts.
As the son of a southern California music store proprietor, two of Block's earliest memories are the smell of old guitars and the sounds of musicians playing rock, blues, and jazz at Hogan's Music. At eleven years of age Block received his first guitar. At thirteen he became intrigued with the banjo after seeing Lester Flatt on television, so his dad gave him a Kay banjo that Christmas. It wasn't long before he also became infatuated with bluegrass guitar.
In addition to his seven songs recorded by Alison Krauss + Union Station, Block has had songs recorded by Rhonda Vincent ("You're In My Heart"), Randy Travis ("Which Way Will You Choose"), Dan Tyminski ("Be Assured"), Michael W. Smith, The Cox Family, and the Forbes Family, whose Block-produced "In the Shadow of Your Wings" is a classic of contemporary bluegrass gospel. He also has a song by AKUS on The Prince of Egypt: Nashville.
Block's debut solo project for Rounder, a musically wide-ranging collection of original gospel songs called Faraway Land, was released in August 2001. Barry, Dan, Alison, Jerry, Larry, along with Adam Steffey, the Forbes Family, Chris Thile, Sean and Sara Watkins, Viktor Krauss, and others join Ron on Faraway Land.
Frequently in demand in the studio on guitar and banjo, Block has recorded with Susan Ashton, Vince Gill, The Cox Family, Clint Black, Brad Paisley, Bill Frisell, Fernando Ortega, Billy Dean, Michael Johnson, Dolly Parton, and many others.
DAN TYMINSKI, acoustic guitar, lead, and harmony vocalist for Union Station, is one of the most dynamic and talented performers to appear on the bluegrass scene in years. His outstanding vocal abilities and hard driving instrumental style have earned him a loyal following. Before becoming a member of Union Station in 1994, Tyminski played mandolin and sang with the Lonesome River Band.
Tyminski's love and feel for traditional bluegrass did not come from growing up in the southern Appalachians, but in Vermont. He credits his brother Stan with getting him hooked on the guitar and mandolin at the age of six. While Stan was in the Navy and home on leave, he left his mandolin with Dan. Once Tyminski began playing, it was never out of reach. He attributes his love for traditional bluegrass to musicians and singers like Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Larry Sparks, and Jimmy Martin.
Tyminski gained national recognition as the singing voice of George Clooney in the motion picture O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Lost Highway Records). Dan won Single of the Year at the 2001 Country Music Association Awards Show for "Man of Constant Sorrow" (Lost Highway Records), a Grammy Award at the 2001 Awards for Country Collaboration of the Year for "Man of Constant Sorrow," and three International Bluegrass Music Awards, two for Male Vocalist of the Year (2001; 2003) and one for Song of the Year for "Man of Constant Sorrow" (2001). "Man of Constant Sorrow" continues to be one of the most popular bluegrass and country songs in recent history. Tyminski has been featured in such publications as Rolling Stone, Country Weekly, CNN.com, and the Associated Press, and performed on The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
A reluctant front man, Tyminski nonetheless toured with the Dan Tyminski Band - featuring fellow AKUS members Ron Block and Barry Bales, along with guitarist Jeff White. Tyminski plans to begin his second solo album this year.
LARRY ATAMANUIK has been playing with Alison Krauss and Union Station on and off for six years. He is formerly a member of Emmylou Harris' Nash Ramblers and California-based Seatrain.