Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


KRAUSS, Alison

(b 23 July '71, Champaign IL) The most creative and magnetic female performer embracing bluegrass and country music in the '90s, a fiddle virtuoso as a child, singer, record producer and leader of bluegrass group Union Station. Grew up in musical family; father plays guitar, mother guitar and banjo, brother Viktor cornet, tuba, piano and bass (a member of Lyle Lovett's band and in-demand session musician). She studied classical violin at five, entered fiddle contests at eight and had her own band at ten; won first state fiddle championship at twelve. First recording session '85 for album Different Strokes on Fiddle Tunes label; signed to Rounder and starred at Newport Folk Festival '86; with her Union Station band won the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass in America's National Band Championship '88, Union Station's Two Highways nominated for a Grammy '89; Alison's I've Got The Old Feeling won a Grammy '91, featuring songs by such diverse acts as Karla Bonoff, Shawn Colvin and Bad Company alongside new bluegrass and country writers such as Sidney Cox (of Cox Family), John Pennel and Nelson Mandrell, widening the following for bluegrass music. Other albums were Too Late To Cry '87 and Every Time You Say Goodbye '92; her work incl. both the soft, heartbreaking ballads and the up-tempo, fiddle-driven bluegrass-band style, the first new bluegrass act in ten years to join Grand Ole Opry June '93, at 21 the youngest ever.

She has played and sung on sessions for Dolly Parton, Michelle Shocked, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson etc, toured as opening act for Garth Brooks '93 ('It was loud,' she said) and made crossover to pop and mainstream country with covers of Keith Whitley's 'When You Say Nothing At All' and the Foundations' 'Baby Now That I've Found You' hitting the country top ten '95. She surprised everyone by walking off with four CMA Awards '95 (Female Vocalist, Vocal Event with Shenandoah for 'Somewhere In The Vicinity Of The Heart', Single of the Year for 'When You Say Nothing At All', and the Horizon Award). Baby Now That I've Found You: A Collection '95 reached pop and country charts, the biggest-selling bluegrass album ever; British success incl. sold-out concerts, TV appearances and radio plays on BBC Radio 1. Though courted by every major label in Nashville, she stayed with the independent Rounder, maintaining musical integrity and sticking with a bluegrass sound; but she regards bluegrass as 'acoustic rock'n'roll' and her choice of songs will remain eclectic: 'There are more rules for country artists than there could possibly be for rock'n'roll folks ... In rock'n'roll, you're praised for doing something new, but in country you're slammed. The [country] people doing really well aren't necessarily reaching any milestones.' She and her band won two more Grammys '96 and another '97; after the compilation went double platinum she invited band members to take lead vocals on several tracks on the next album, So Long, So Wrong '97. She prod. her own recordings with her Union Station band and also produces the Cox Family. Her biggest love outside music is roller skating: she's been known to roller skate in Nashville suburbs at 2 a.m. and might have become a pro skater if music hadn't worked.