Artist Profiles: Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss was born July 23, 1971 in Decatur, Illinois, but was raised in Champaign, Illinois. She began studying classical violin at five years old but soon switched to bluegrass. For Alison Krauss, musical collaboration has been a way of life. Her own story has been nothing short of amazing: signed to Rounder Records as a precocious 13-year-old fiddler from Champaign, Illinois, she has become the most recognized face in contemporary bluegrass, a critically acclaimed artist -who has brought modern sophistication to the genre while respecting its traditions.

She has also managed to sell upwards of 8 million records and garner 20 Grammy Awards, the most for any female artist in Grammy history. Yet Krauss has consistently worked to honor her influences, like contemporary bluegrass pioneer Tony Rice, to promote discoveries like the Cox Family, and to offer her skills as producer, most recently to country star Alan Jackson.

Alison Krauss

Krauss is apparently not one for taking time off. While Union Station took a hiatus after the 18-month tour to support the 2004 Alison Krauss and Union Station release Lonely Runs Both Ways, Krauss took full advantage of the down time to explore new musical horizons. Krauss reached that extraordinary 20 Grammy milestone when Lonely Runs Both Ways was named 2005’s Best Country Album. It wasn’t the only award she and her band-mates took home from the 48th Annual Grammys; “Unionhouse Branch” garnered Best Country Instrumental Performance and “Restless” received the Best Country Performance by a Duo/Group Award. She also received several Country Music Association Awards, including Musical Event of the Year for “Whiskey Lullaby” with Brad Paisley, originally released on Paisley’s Mud on the Tires and reprised on A Hundred Miles or More.

She produced Alan Jackson’s 2006 release, Like Red on a Rose, which the Chicago Sun-Times declared “a masterpiece,” taking the best-selling artist out of his familiar surroundings to create a moody, intimate song cycle that has been favorably compared to Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours.

She also produced and recorded five new tracks with long time engineer Gary Paczosa to complete her twelfth release, A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection, gathering on one elegantly understated disc previously released collaborations with such artists and friends as Brad Paisley, John Waite, James Taylor, Natalie MacMaster, and The Chieftains, along with songs she cut for the films Cold Mountain, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and an “inspired by” album for the animated The Prince Of Egypt. She also recorded and produced five new tracks, including a soulful slow-dance tempo of Don Williams’ “Lay Down Beside Me” with Rounder Records label-mate Waite, to create something far more than just a compilation.

With the new tracks (among them the current country single “Simple Love”) she created something far more than just a compilation. Across 16 songs, A Hundred Miles or More gracefully balances the new with the familiar to form a vivid portrait of this adventurous artist. In the same “year off, she began the then-undefined project with Plant and Burnett, recording initially in Nashville, then moving to Los Angeles to complete the project.

Krauss’ musical collaboration, Raising Sand, is a superb album recorded in tandem with rock vocalist and songwriter Plant. Scheduled for release on Rounder on October 23, 2007, ‘ Raising Sand is their first recorded endeavor, and will prove revelatory to fans and the media on two counts: first that it happened at all, and, more importantly, that it is as successful and illuminating as it is.

Under the careful sonic stewardship of producer T Bone Burnett, rising Sand’s pitched three steps beyond some cosmic collision of early urban blues, spacious West Texas country, and the unrealized potential of the folk-rock revolution. Shockingly evocative, it is an album that uncovers popular music’s elemental roots while sounding effortlessly, breath-takingly modern. Despite hailing from distinctly different backgrounds. Plant and Krauss share a maverick spirit and willingness to extend the boundaries of their respective genres.

Raising Sand finds Plant and Krauss functioning as sympathetic equals: creating a powerful new sound from both their common musical ground and their unrivaled sense of empathy.

While finishing touches were being done on Raising Sand, Krauss and her equally celebrated band Union Station were busy fulfilling one of their long-time dreams@a special tour with their friend, mentor and inspiration Tony Rice, performing material from his storied career. Alison and Union Station moved directly from the dates with Tony Rice to a national summer tour in support of A Hundred Miles or More. Billed as “An Evening with Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas,” it showcases material from the new disc, along with fan favorites.

I never had any big dreams about doing something on a huge scale,” Krauss reflects. “But I have dreamt about liking my records. That’s the kind of stuff I dreamt about.”

Alison Krauss and Union Station in 2011

In May 2012, Alison Krauss was granted an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.

Discography:

Different Strokes (Fiddle Tunes, 1985)
Too Late to Cry (Rounder Records, 1987)
Two Highways (Rounder Records, 1989)
I’ve Got That Old Feeling (Rounder Records, 1990)
Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder Records, 1992)
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, with The Cox Family (Rounder Records, 1994)
So Long So Wrong (Rounder Records, 1997)
Forget About It (Rounder Records, 1999)
New Favorite (Rounder Records, 2001)
Live (Rounder Records, 2002)
Lonely Runs Both Ways (Rounder Records, 2004)
Raising Sand, with Robert Plant (Rounder Records, 2007)
Paper Airplane (Rounder Records, 2011)
Windy City (Capitol Records, 2017)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.
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