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Alison Krauss

Adam Steffey left Union Station in 1998, and renowned dobro player Jerry Douglas replaced him. Douglas had provided studio back-up to Krauss's records since 1987's Too Late To Cry. Their next album, New Favorite, was released on August 14, 2001. The album went on to win the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, with the single "The Lucky One" winning a Grammy as well. New Favorite was followed up by the double platinum double album Live in 2002 and a release of a DVD of the same live performance in 2003. Both the album and the DVD were recorded during a performance at The Louisville Palace.

Whiskey Lullaby

Alison Krauss' duet performance with Brad PaisleyProblems listening to the file? See media help.

Lonely Runs Both Ways was released in 2004, and eventually became another Alison Krauss & Union Station gold certified album. Ron Block described Lonely Runs Both Ways as "pretty much... what we've always done" in terms of song selection and the style in which those songs were recorded. Krauss, on the other hand, believes the group "was probably the most unprepared we've ever been" for the album and that songs were chosen as needed rather than planned beforehand. She also performed a duet with Brad Paisley on his album Mud on the Tires in the single "Whiskey Lullaby". The single was quite successful, ranking in the top fifty of the Billboard Hot 100 and the top five of the Hot Country Songs, and won the Country Music Association Awards for "Best Musical Event" and "Best Music Video" of the year.

Other work

Krauss has made multiple guest appearances on other records with lead vocals, harmony vocals, or fiddle playing. She has contributed to numerous motion picture soundtracks, perhaps most notably the soundtrack O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000. She and co-vocalist Dan Tyminski contributed multiple tracks to the soundtrack, including "I'll Fly Away" (with Gillian Welch), "Down to the River to Pray", and "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow." In the film, Tyminski's vocals on Man of Constant Sorrow became the singing voice of George Clooney. The soundtrack sold over seven million copies and won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2002. The unexpected success of the album has been partially credited, as was Krauss herself, with bringing a new interest in bluegrass to the United States. She has said, however, that she believes Americans already liked bluegrass and other less-heard musical genres, and that the film merely provided easy exposure to the music. She did not appear in the movie, at her own request, as she was nine months pregnant during its filming. In 2007, Krauss released the anthology "A Hundred Miles Or More: A Collection," which was a collection of soundtrack work, duets with artists such as John Waite, James Taylor, Brad Paisley and esteemed fiddle player Natalie MacMaster, and newer tracks. The album was very commercially successful, but was received with a lukewarm reception from critics. One of the tracks, "Missing You", a duet with Waite (and a cover of his hit single from 1984), was similarly received as a single. On August 11, television network Great American Country aired a one-hour special, "Alison Krauss: A Hundred Miles or More" based on the album and featured many of the album's duets and solo performances.

Down to the River to Pray

Alison Krauss sings "Down to the River to Pray" on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrackProblems listening to the file? See media help.

Other soundtracks for which Krauss has performed include Twister, The Prince of Egypt, Eight Crazy Nights, Mona Lisa Smile, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Alias, Bambi II and Cold Mountain. She also contributed the song "Jubilee" to the 2004 documentary Paper Clips. The Cold Mountain song "The Scarlet Tide" by T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello was nominated for an Academy Award, and she performed the song at the 76th Academy Awards with Costello and Burnett. She also worked as a producer for Nickel Creek on their debut self-titled album in 2000 and the follow-up This Side in 2002, which won Krauss her first Grammy as a music producer. Krauss also recorded a collaborative album, Raising Sand with Robert Plant in 2007. In October 2007, Krauss and Plant recorded a Crossroads special for the Country Music Television network (CMT) which first aired on February 12, 2008. A Krauss/Plant tour is also planned for 2008.

Reception and influences

Krauss's earliest musical experience was as an instrumentalist, though her style has grown to focus more on her vocals with a band providing most of the instrumentation. Musicians she enjoys include Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Paul Rodgers of Bad Company. She cites Dolly Parton, with whom she has since collaborated a number of times, as a major influence. Some credit Krauss and Union Station, at least partially, with a recent revival of interest in bluegrass music in the United States. Despite being together for nearly two decades and winning numerous awards, she said the group was "just beginning right now" (in 2002) because "in spite of all the great things that have happened for the band, feel musically it's just really beginning." Although she alternates between solo releases and works with the band, she has said there is no difference in her involvement between the two.

As a group, AKUS have been called "American favourites," "world-beaters," and "the tightest band around." While they have been successful as a group, many reviews note Krauss still "remains the undisputed star and rock-solid foundation" and have described her as the "band's focus" with an "angelic" voice that "flows like honey". Her work has been compared to that of the Cox Family, Bill Monroe, and Del McCoury, and has in turn been credited with influencing various "Newgrass" artists including Nickel Creek, for which she acted as record producer on two of their albums. In addition to her work with Nickel Creek, she has acted as producer to the Cox Family, Reba McEntire, and Alan Jackson. Adam Sweeting of The Guardian has said Krauss and Union Station are "superb when they stick to hoedowns and hillbilly music, but much less convincing when they lurch towards the middle of the road," and Blender magazine has said the "flavorless repertoire sings... steers her toward Lite FM". In addition, Q magazine and The Onion AV Club have said their newer releases are "pretty much the usual," and that although Krauss is generally "adventurous," these recent releases contain nothing to "alienate the masses".

Voice, themes, and musical style

Krauss generally sings as a soprano in a breathy yet penetrating style using little to no vibrato: her clear vocals have been described as "angelic". She has said her musical influences include J. D. Crowe, Ricky Skaggs, and Tony Rice. Many of her songs are described as sad, and are often about love, especially lost love. Krauss herself has said of her song selection that she looks for "tunes that can relate to" and "if they make you feel like crap, you oughta do 'em." Though she has a close involvement with her group and a long career in music, she rarely performs music she has written herself. She has also described her general approach to constructing an album as starting with a single song and selecting other tracks based on the first, to give the final album a somewhat consistent theme and mood. She most commonly performs in the bluegrass and country genres, though she has had two songs on the adult contemporary charts, has worked with rock artists such as Phish and Sting, and is sometimes said to stray into pop music.

Music videos

Krauss did not think she would make music videos at the beginning of her career, and after recording her first she was convinced it was so bad that she would never do another. Nonetheless, she has gone on to make further videos. Many of the first videos she saw were by bluegrass artists, although Dan Tyminski has noted that the video for Thriller was very popular at the time she was first exposed to music videos. She has made suggestions on the style or theme to some videos, though she tends to leave such decisions up to the director of the particular video. The group chooses directors by seeking out people who have previously directed videos bandmembers have enjoyed. The director for a video to "If I Didn't Know Any Better" from Lonely Runs Both Ways, for example, was selected because Krauss enjoyed work he had done with Def Leppard, and she wondered what he could do with their music. While style decisions are generally left to the various directors of the videos, many —including for "Restless", "Goodbye is All We Have", "New Favorite", and "If I Didn't Know Any Better"—follow a pattern. In all of these videos Krauss walks, sometimes interacting with other people, while the rest of the band follows her.

Performances

Krauss has said she used to dislike working in the studio where she had to play the same song repeatedly, but has come to like studio work roughly the same as live stage performances. Her own favorite concert experiences include watching three Foreigner concerts during a single tour, a Dolly Parton concert, and a Larry Sparks concert. She appeared on Austin City Limits in 1992 and opened the show in 1995 with Union Station. The New Favorite tour, after AKUS' album of the same name, was planned to start September 12, 2001 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but was delayed until September 28 in Savannah, Georgia following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Krauss also took part in the Down from the Mountain tour in 2002, which featured many artists from the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and was named after a documentary on the making of said soundtrack. Down from the Mountain was followed by the Great High Mountain Tour, which was comprised of musicians from both O Brother and Cold Mountain, including Krauss. She has also given several notable smaller performances including at Carnegie Hall (with the Grand Ole Opry), on Lifetime Television in a concert of female performers, on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion where she sang two songs not previously recorded on any of her albums, and a performance at the White House attended by then-President Bill Clinton and then-Vice President Al Gore.

Awards

See also: List of Alison Krauss awards

Alison Krauss has won a record twenty one Grammy Awards over the course of her career as a solo artist, as a group with Union Station, and as a record producer. This is more than any other female artist and tied for seventh most won by any artist overall. She overtook Aretha Franklin for the most female wins at the 46th Grammy Awards where Krauss won three, bringing her total at the time to seventeen (Franklin won her sixteenth that night), and performed with Sarah McLachlan. The Recording Academy (which presents the Grammy Awards) presented her with a special musical achievement honor in 2005. She has also won seven Country Music Association Awards, fifteen International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, and two Gospel Music Association Awards.

At the 76th Academy Awards in February 2004, where she performed two nominated songs from the Cold Mountain soundtrack, Alison Krauss was chosen by Hollywood shoe designer Stuart Weitzman to wear a pair of $2 million 'Cinderella' sandals with 4½ inch clear glass stiletto heels and two straps adorned with 565 Kwiat diamonds set in platinum. Feeling like a rather unglamorous choice, Krauss said, "When I first heard, I was like, 'What were they thinking?' I have the worst feet of anybody who will be there that night!" In addition to the fairy-tale-inspired shoes, Weitzman outfitted Krauss with a Palm Trço 600 smartphone, bejeweled with 3,000 clear-and-topaz-colored Swarovski crystals. The shoes were returned, but Krauss kept the crystal-covered phone. Weitzman chose Krauss to show off his fashions at the urging of his daughters, who are fans of Krauss' music.