|Alison Krauss Biography|
Country Music Interests
The story of the Class of 89
A Brief Synopsis of 90's Country
When she released “Two Highways” in 1989 at 18, Alison was already being called the future of Bluegrass. John Pernell saw Alison’s future too. It was a future where she was in control. She did not need a mentor anymore, she needed to stretch her wings and fly. When she made “Two Highways” Alison formed a backup band called Union Station. John Pernell had been a key member of Union Station. Now after making “Two Highways”, John left Union Station to return to writing music.
Alison next album “I’ve Got That Old Time Feeling” was a solo effort. It won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, and charted on the country album charts. It even generated Alison’s first single – “Steel Rails,” which just made the country singles chart.
After releasing the 1992 “Everytime You Say Goodbye” with Union Station, Alison began getting recognition from major forces in music. After winning her second Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album, Alison realized a dream in 1993 by being inducted as a member of the Grand Old Opry. She was the Opry’s youngest member at the time, and part of the same cast as the legendary Bill Monroe who had founded Bluegrass Music.
Another Opry member, country superstar Alan Jackson, gave Alison a chance for her first duet with a major commercial artist. Together the two recorded a duet and video for the “Angel Cried” which appeared on Alan’s platinum selling Christmas album “Honky Tonk Christmas. Soon an invitation to open concerts for mega-star Garth Brooks arrived. Alison was now a respected vocalist, fiddler and, even had begun developing a reputation as an album producer. What she lacked was mainstream commercial success.
Alison had charted albums and singles, but never had a commercial big hit. In 1995 Rounder Records put together a collection of Alison’s songs from previous albums for project called “Now That I Found You: A Collection.” For the album Alison recorded some new songs including a remake of the Keith Whitley hit “When You Say Nothing at All.” Alison was intending to record it for a Keith Whitley tribute album, but after hearing it she was encourage to put it on her new collection of music.
“When You Say Nothing at All” caught fire with Country Music radio. Normally songs played on radio have big promotion budgets to help them get noticed by radio programmers. “When You Say Nothing at All” had no promotion budget as Rounder could not afford one. Instead word of mouth carried the tune all the way to #3 on the country singles chart.
(l to r) Dan, Jerry, Barry and Ron
Major Nashville records label quickly presented with Alison attractive offers to leave Rounder and her bluegrass band Union Station behind. The prodigy was now a raising star and major record labels wanted to make her a contemporary Country Music superstar.
Alison had other plans. She loved Bluegrass; and decided to remain loyal to Union Station. She rejected the major record label offers and 1997 she released “So Wrong So Long.” It was a Bluegrass album, and signaled Alison would remain a Bluegrass artists. Many said she had made a major mistake by staying in Bluegrass. They were wrong.
Alison was now in control of career. Well almost in control. Alison never mc’d her concerts. For years she let Union Station member Adam Steffey do the talking. When Steffey left Union Station to pursue another musical opportunity, Alison replaced him with dobro playing master Jerry Douglass. Alison also asked Jerry to do the talking during their concerts. He refused, aptly noting that her name was on the top of the marquee. People wanted to her what she had to say. For then on, Alison mc’d all her concerts.
She also had Union Station the way she wanted it - Barry Bales on bass, Ron Block on banjo and guitar, Jerry Douglass on dobro, Dan Tyminski on guitar and mandolin, and herself on fiddle. Unlike other “stars” Alison shared lead vocal; letting Dan and Ron take turns not only in concert, but on their albums as well. It was this sense of sharing which got Dan involved with Alison the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack.
Producer T Bone Burnett was recording a soundtrack to the movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” It was a soundtrack of Bluegrass and old time music. Alison was invited to record a couple of tracks and brought Dan with her. Amazingly it was decided Dan should be the singing voice of the lead character in the movie. Dan rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow” became the projects lead single. Country radio was hesitant to play it, but on public radio and CMT, they were playing it like mad. The song caused album sales of the soundtrack to surge upward. When the album won the CMA Album of the Year and Dan, Alison and Union Station performed the song on the award show, album sales exploded. When the album won the Grammy for Best Album of any music form, sales move it to number one on the pop album charts. Bluegrass had “arrived.”
Dan was now a Bluegrass icon, but as Alison had been loyal to him and Union Station in 1997, he remained loyal to her staying in Union Station and performing “Man of Constant Sorrow” and other songs at their concerts.
Alison Krauss & Union Station was being invited to make appearances on big time television gigs that never would have considered a Bluegrass act before. They were being interviewed by mainstream newspapers and magazine that had never run a story on a Bluegrass artist. Alison Krauss & Union Station had the respect of the music world for their talent and achievements. The child prodigy had now become a figurehead; exposing Bluegrass to new audiences, and earning it a respect it never had. Isn’t that what prodigy’s are suppose to grow up and do?