album reviews

Alison Krauss and Union Station
Lonely Runs Both Ways
Rounder (2004)

Bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss seems to have been around forever, with 17 Grammys and a strong presence on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. She continues to grow her repertoire with her latest, Lonely Runs Both Ways, a covers-heavy collection that sounds more textured than her earlier recordings, while still centered on her powerful vocals.

The sheer altitude of her range makes Krauss's voice astounding; she floats somewhere between the dainty ballerina steps of the honey-soaked "Restless" and the always upward-looking beanstalk-climb of "Crazy as Me." On "Doesn't Have to Be This Way," Krauss sings the same notes over and over, changing her timbre and intonation just slightly in a display of superb vocal control that makes her voice as much of an instrument as the guitar playing behind her.

Krauss could fill a whole album with her gorgeous vocals, but she steps aside to make room for the equally talented Union Station. The tracks sung by banjo player Ron Block and guitarist Dan Tyminski (the Soggy Bottom Boy himself) are Lonely's more uptempo numbers, nicely balancing out Krauss' slower, melodic vocals and drawing further attention to her voice by juxtaposition. The album closes with the breathtaking "A Living Prayer" (written by Block), with Krauss' note-perfect vocals accompanied by the faintest of arpeggiated guitar lines. The simplicity of the instrumentation coupled with Krauss' gently soaring voice make for the most goose-bump-inducing moment of her career.

-Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: the Baltimore CityPaper: 29 December 2004
.: Lonely Runs Both Ways on