If you are one for statistics, Alison Krauss has won 27 grammy awards – the most by a female and I dare say that she is up there with the highest of all time. If you judge an artist by the longevity of their career, then the 45 year old has been around since the 80’s. If you judge an artist by the quality of her band, then her Union Station team have been around for years and they are probably one of the best known “backing bands” in the business. Some of them appear on this album, but it is essentially a solo effort, her first for 17 years. If you judge an artist on their ability to overcome the odds, and come back with a voice that is even better than it once was, then she gets a tick there, too. Alison had a disease that stopped her from singing completely. If you judge an artist on the quality of people that she attracts to help produce and record an album then she ticks that box too. The songs on the album are country classics and there are a few surprises. If you judge an artist on how they evolve and their willingness to test the waters, then there is another box ticked. Some of Alison’s fans may be a bit hesitant, but don’t be. One reviewer said that her new label has put her on the cover with big hair and a little black dress…..hinting that Cap. Records are trying to shift her a bit from her Bluegrass/Union Station self to a more crossover role. Nope. If you really listen to this album, there is nothing poppy about it but it is more pure country music than bluegrass or folk.
In the end, it is best not to judge at all. The music is great, Alison’s voice is never better and if you prefer more fiddle to violin, then Alison has plenty of that in her back catalogue. I remember once Vince Gill not being able to find the words to describe Alison. In the end he just introduced her by name, shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Wise man.
This review is of the Deluxe version, which has several of the songs recorded LIVE as well as the studio recordings, is produced by Grammy award winning Buddy Cannon.
The tracks are well known, but some more than others, and they aren’t the ones that people normally pick when doing a covers album.
Losing You – Personally, this is my favourite on the album. One of two songs on the album made famous by Brenda Lee. An interesting one to open with, as it is a mellow track, but absolutely beautiful.
It’s Goodbye and So Long to You – This is very much the old Texas Swing type of song, by the Osborne Brothers. I am surprised that this is not the opening track. Maybe because Losing You sets the album’s scene more than this more uptempo song.
Windy City – Appropriate song and title for the album as Alison was born and bred in Illinois.
I Never Cared For You – The harmonising that we expect from Alison, but a new latino twist. Get out your maracas. A little bit different to the Willie Nelson version!
River In The Rain – From the Roger Miller scored musical, “Big River – The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn”. A wistful, gentle version with a lullaby feel.
Dream of Me – Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer wrote this song, and it is the kind of country song that Aussie Bluegrass singer, Kristy Cox would probably attempt and do it the same way as Alison. Wouldn’t that be a great duet! One of my favourites on the album.
Gentle On My Mind – perhaps one of the better known tracks on the album, with the best remembered version by Glen Campbell. Alison sings it with great respect and it is sweeter than sugar cane.
All Alone Am I – This is the other song made popular by Brenda Lee – both of these tracks are listed as the favourites on here by many reviewers, so far, and I can’t argue too much about that.
Poison Love – A Bill Monroe B side that I wasn’t familiar with – one of the more up tempo songs on the album. It reminds me a bit of that old song “My neverending love for you….”
You Don’t Know Me – They keep comparing Alison’s version to Ray Charles’ version, noting how different it is. I always think of it as an Elvis song, and Alison sings it in a very similar fashion to how Elvis did…..right down to the arrangement. Perfect.
Make the World Go Away with Jamey Johnson – Probably one of the best loved country songs of all time and Alison and Jamey do a fine job of it.
Till I gain control Again – This song reminds me of “Til I can make it on my own” – I would say that it would have to be a close relative.
Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground – Without the Willie Nelson riff but Allison soars like an angel in this song.
Bonus versions on Deluxe copy:
Windy City (Live at the Franklin Theatre)
River in the Rain (Live At The Franklin Theatre)
Losing You (Live At The Franklin Theatre)
I Never Cared For You (Live At The Franklin Theatre)
Where Alison did best here was pick tunes that people may find familiar but not too familiar. They aren’t songs that have been done to death or songs that haven’t been recorded for a while, with the exception of Gentle on My Mind which is one of those songs that sounds good whoever sings it.
Alison may be changing paths a bit, but she will never go so far that she forgets her roots and I don’t think that she will go punk or heavy metal on us. Her voice is enough alone to send this album up the charts and to a few red carpets. The slick production and the polished musicianship will take her across the line.
It would have been sad to lose Alison to music like we have lost Linda…I am glad that she can sing again….sing? She makes the Angels jealous.
And like Vince Gill tried to explain….oh well, I am just going to shrug my shoulders and smile.