New Favorite – Alison Krauss & Union Station (2001)

New Favorite album cover
New Favorite album cover

Bluegrass is one of those musical styles that although I may have disliked, I have immense respect for. It’s players are often stewarts of Appalachian folklore and culture. The feeling and emotion they put into the music often rivals the intensity of the best soul or gospel music.

So when I heard Alison Krauss & Union Station’s New Favorite, I was surprised by how un-bluegrass it sounded, until I heard the rest of the album. Not even a year before the soundtrack to the film O Brother Where Art Thou became a bluegrass staple and established Krauss as one of bluegrass music’s foremost new stars.

The songs that made Alison Krauss one of my favorite country performers were more alt country torch song pop than the traditional cartoonish twang coming from country radio. Top notch musicians and a studio production team lead by Jerry Douglass created a sonic landscape that was both dreamy and intimate.

Many thought the production was too slick for a bluegrass album, but New Favorite had a duality about it that interwove modern bluegrass with modern country with big city production values.

The bluegrass parts with scruffy songs like ‘The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn’, ‘Momma Cried’ and the expert banjo pickin’ of ‘Choctaw Hayride’ grew on me, but I still find myself skipping most of these tracks in favor of the Krauss led songs. Fortunately, Krauss’ voice features promently on the majority of the album and all of it’s four singles.

It was the last of these singles, the title track that got my attention. By that time the album had made its rounds at the top to the country and bluegrass charts thanks to ‘The Lucky One’ and had entered the top 40 albums chart. VH-1 picked up the single as well as many adult contemporary radio stations.

Bluegrass music was reinvorgorated by the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou , but New favorite may have won new converts – or at least most of it. In 2002 New Favorite won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album and the single “The Lucky One” which barly cracked the country top 50 won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal as well as Best Country Song. 2002 It was a good year for bluegrass and Alison Krauss.

 

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