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alison krauss

 

ALISON KRAUSS

 

Alison Krauss (born on July 23, 1971 in Decatur, Illinois), is a bluegrass singer and virtuoso fiddle player who grew up in Champaign, Illinois.

Krauss initially studied classical violin, starting at five, but she quickly switched to bluegrass. By age eight she started entering local talent contests and at ten she had her own band. At twelve she won the Illinois State Fiddle Championship and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America named her the Most Promising Fiddler in the Midwest. In 1987, her debut album Too Late To Cry was released when she was 16. This was followed by her first record with her band Union Station in 1989, Two Highways. At this time, the lineup of Union Station was Jeff White (guitar, lead & harmony vocals), John Pennell (bass) -- who has written many of Alison's earliest material, most notably the favorite "Everytime You Say Goodbye," and Mark Harman (banjo, harmony vocals). Included on this record are many traditional bluegrass numbers, and a bluegrass interpretation of The Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider."

Alison alternated between recording solo records and records with Union Station as a part of her contract. A solo record would be followed by a Union Station record, and then another solo record. In 1990, Alison released I've Got That Old Feeling, a solo album that broadened her exposure in the mainstream of country music. Alison shot the first music video for a bluegrass song (the title track from the album I've Got That Old Feeling) which aired on Country Music Television (CMT). There was moderate airplay of the song "Steel Rails" on country radio, and an accompanying video for this single was shot and aired on CMT in 1991 as well. The performing lineup of her Union Station band in 1990 included esteemed banjoist and recording artist Alison Brown, White and her brother Viktor Krauss (bass). I've Got That Old Feeling went on to win the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording, and Alison was named IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year. The elements that would define Alison's success inside and outside of the world of bluegrass were beginning to show in this record, as she would incorporate drums and piano into the mix and her angelic vocals could soften the rough, driving nature of bluegrass music.

In 1992, Alison's second Union Station album Everytime You Say Goodbye was released, with videos for the title track, "New Fool" and "Heartstrings" airing on CMT throughout 1993. Another unusual cover on this album was Shawn Colvin's "I Don't Know Why." The lineup of Union Station at this point began to solidify, as longterm members Barry Bales (bass) and Ron Block (banjo, guitar, lead & harmony vocals) joined the group. Adam Steffey was added for vocals and mandolin, and Tim Stafford became a guitarist and vocalist. In 1993, Alison became (at the time) the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry, being 22 at the time. She was also the first bluegrass artist to join the Opry in 29 years. In 1994, Alison collaborated on a project with the Cox Family (Sid and Suzanne Cox have contributed numerous songs to Alison's records from 1987 until today), a spiritual album called I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.

Up until now, Alison's band had already been attracting unprecedented amounts of attention for a bluegrass band worldwide, but in 1995, Alison's biggest successes were realized. Now That I Found You: A Collection was released, a compilation of favorite old tracks, rare collaborations on other artists' albums and new cuts (most of which were cover material). This record demonstrated Alison's flair for all genres of music and pushing the envelope with her own. The sultry and jazzy interpretation of Bad Company's "Oh Atlanta," the surprising cover of The Foundations' 60s song "Baby Now That I've Found You," and the banjo-tinged redoing of "I Will" by The Beatles were all included here. Alison was invited to contribute to a tribute CD for late country artist Keith Whitley. Tapped originally to do his "Kentucky Bluebird" song, she decided against it since she did not want to sing a song that referenced watching TV. Ultimately, she performed his much beloved love song "When You Say Nothing At All" with Union Station. The single reached No. 3 on the country music chart and helped propel A Collection as high as No. 13 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 200 albums chart. Throughout 1995, the CD sold two million copies and became double platinum -- a first for any bluegrass recording artist. She was nominated for four CMAs, including Best Female Vocalist, the Horizon Award, Single Of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year (for a collaboration with Shenandoah that same year called "Somewhere In The Vicinity Of The Heart"), all of which she won.

In 1995, the lineup of Alison Krauss and Union Station changed again with the addition of mandolin and guitar player Dan Tyminski (who had previously played with Lonesome River Band), replacing Tim Stafford. With the explosion of Alison's career commercially and critically, the industry considered whether Alison would pursue a major label record deal, given how demonstratively marketable her soft and angelic vocals were. Instead, in 1997, another Union Station record was released with the current lineup called So Long, So Wrong. Though the roots of the band remained true to bluegrass, this CD gives an impression that AKUS were about to take on a more innovative approach to bluegrass and acoustic music. It is the first CD in which the group worked with producer Gary Paczosa. This album, the cover of which is a takeoff of AC/DC's Highway to Hell cover, is distinguished by its unusual blend of haunting string-based tracks (with Alison on lead vocals and incorporating viola) and hard-driving semi-traditional bluegrass tracks (with Adam, Dan or Ron on lead vocals). Features for this record included music videos for "Looking in the Eyes of Love" (shot in homage to Def Leppard's "Love Bites" single) and "Find My Way Back To My Heart," and the track "It Doesn't Matter" which was featured in the second season premiere episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer entitled "When She Was Bad" and thus, included on the soundtrack CD released for the series in 1999 (amid artists such as Garbage, Bif Naked, Velvet Chain and Nerf Herder). So Long, So Wrong won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album and numerous other awards.

Alison's next solo release in 1999, Forget About It, marked her biggest departure from the bluegrass genre. The mostly mellow, adult contemporary-flavored set included "Stay", the title track, and the hauntingly bluesy "Maybe," the video for which nearly reached No. 1 on CMT's Top 20 Countdown in 2000. The track "That Kind of Love" eventually became included in another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the sixth season episode "Entropy" (2002).

2000 was another major year for Alison and her group with the release of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Alison and co-vocalist Dan Tyminski contributed multiple tracks to the soundtrack of the film, including "Down in the River to Pray," "I'll Fly Away" (Alison with Gillian Welch) and "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow." Though Alison had previously received widespread attention for her own material, Sorrow became the song that brought Alison's back-up group into the limelight, as the Dan Tyminski-led track was a defining moment in the film. This brought Dan accolades as the singing voice of George Clooney. The soundtrack sold over seven million records over the course of the next year and became as much of an unexpected smash as Alison's own Collection was five years prior, winning the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2002 and besting such acts as U2.

Adam Steffey departed from Union Station in 1999, and a collective dream came true for the band when he was replaced by world-renowned dobro master Jerry Douglas. Though he had provided studio back-up to Alison's records since 1987's Too Late To Cry, only now would he become a full-fledged, featured member of Union Station. Jerry's flair for a fusion-based approach to dobro-playing would help lead AKUS into an edgier territory of bluegrass, and also provide a rich, enveloping compliment to many of the band's slow-paced songs of loneliness and heartache. With his introduction to the group, the band would begin incorporating original instrumentals onto their CDs. Alison Krauss & Union Station's first CD with Jerry as a featured member was released in 2001. New Favorite's lead single, "The Lucky One," became such a critical favorite that Alison began to regain limited amounts of country radio airplay. On CMT, "The Lucky One" and "Let Me Touch You For Awhile," written by Robert Lee Castleman, both went to No. 1 on their Top 20 Countdown. Also included on this record was the blazing and complex instrumental "Choctaw Hayride," composed by Douglas and awarded the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental, another unexpected cover of Dan Fogelberg's "Stars" and a very creative re-inventing of the traditional "The Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn" (retitled "The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn") with Dan Tyminski on lead vocals. New Favorite, another gold record, received the Grammy in 2002 for Best Bluegrass Album.

New Favorite was followed up by the highly acclaimed, platinum selling double CD Live in 2002, which was accompanied by a DVD of the same performance in 2003. Live won IBMA Album of the Year and numerous other awards. In 2004, the album Lonely Runs Both Ways was released, featuring radio success "Restless" and another hard-edged instrumental from dobroist Jerry Douglas, "Unionhouse Branch." The present lineup of Union Station are Bales, Block, Tyminski and Jerry Douglas. Additionally, Larry Atamunik, who has been providing light percussion to Alison's band for a number of years, has grown to be an unofficial honorary member of the group.

Alison Krauss's musical career is shaped by her interest in timeless songs of sadness, regret, longing and loneliness. Her clear-focused control of her musical talents provides depth and resonance to every song she produces. Her devotion to servicing a song is represented by her increasingly restrained approach to fiddle playing and softened vocals. Despite the ample opportunity for cross-over success on a major label, Alison has always remained with the independent label Rounder Records, appreciating the freedom the label allows her to make records the way she wants to. Though she is occasionally criticized for being "too pop" or "too country" to be considered true bluegrass, she remains heavily devoted to honoring the traditions of bluegrass and keeping the roots of the music in her group. Her music has been described as being a unique blend between bluegrass and Neotraditional Country. For a bluegrass musician, Alison Krauss has been involved in countless collaborations with artists from various other musical spectrums, including Phish, James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, Ben Harper, The Chieftains, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Ledward Kaapana, Tony Furtado, Cheryl Wheeler, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Dar Williams, John Michael Montgomery, Michael Johnson, Kenny Rogers, Sting, and numerous others. She has made multiple guest appearances on other records, be it lead vocals, or fiddles or harmony vocals. She has contributed to numerous motion picture soundtracks, including Twister, The Prince of Egypt, Eight Crazy Nights, Mona Lisa Smile, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Cold Mountain. The Cold Mountain songs, Sting's "You Will Be My Ain' True Love" and T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello's "The Scarlet Tide", were nominated for Best Original Song Oscars in 2003, and she performed on the Academy Awards.

Alison has worked closely with the former-child prodigy group Nickel Creek, producing their debut self-titled record in 2000 and their follow-up record of 2002, This Side.

Alison Krauss has become very notably famous for her offbeat sense of humor and humorous live anecdotes. She is very fond of classic rock music and has cited bands such as Aerosmith and Def Leppard as personal favorites. From 1997 to 2001, she was married to Pat Bergeson, a member of Lyle Lovett's band, and she has one son, Sam, who was born in 1999.

Krauss is the most honored female performer in Grammy history, having won twenty awards in her career. In 2005, the Recording Academy (which presents the Grammys) presented Alison with a special musical achievement honor. In 2006, she was nominated for the categories of "Best Country Album," "Best Country Instrumental" (for "Unionhouse Branch") and "Best Country Song" (for "Restless") and won all three.