Whether labeled "bluegrass," "country," or "folk," Alison Krauss has created a winning recipe for making music, without being formulaic. She alternates between solo and band recordings, which allows the singer/fiddler to showcase both contemporary pop and traditional country/bluegrass sounds. Alison Krauss' latest release with her band Union Station is New Favorite.
Though her earliest training was in classical music, Alison Krauss' biggest success came when she blurred the boundaries of country, pop and bluegrass to find her own musical voice. On New Favorite Alison sings in a whispery, high vocal style that makes bluegrass standards sound new, and new songs sound timeless.
The title song, written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, might be the highlight of New Favorite. As Krauss sings this tale of love gone cold, her steely whisper trembles on the verge of tears and fury, without giving in.
For the past few years, Alison Krauss has alternated between releasing solo albums and ones with Union Station, making a clear distinction between her folk-pop solo records and the bluegrass albums credited to the band, even though the same musicians often appear on both. This approach makes more sense now that one of her bandmates, Dan Tyminski, has emerged as a star in his own right. You've heard him as the lead voice of The Soggy Bottom Boys, made famous on the soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Tyminski takes the lead on three songs on New Favorite, including Momma Cried, about a child-snatching that tore a family apart. His tenor vocals soar above a wailing dobro, driving banjo and a thumping bass to convey unspeakable pain.
On New Favorite, the fourth Alison Krauss and Union Station release, the group has never sounded more like a real band. With dobro wizard Jerry Douglas now a full-fledged member, and alternating lead vocals, the group shows that it is much more than a backing band for Alison's angelic voice and fiddle bowing. This recording is roots music in its freshest form: both tradition based and tradition bending.