Thanks to a big year full of awards show wins and major TV exposure for Alison Krauss + Union Station, Rounder Records is understandably upbeat about the commercial prospects for “Lonely Runs Both Ways,” the act’s first studio album in three years.
Krauss is also enthusiastic about the album — released Nov. 23 — but for a different reason. “I’m just excited because it’s done,” says Krauss, a notoriously tardy production perfectionist. “We finished at the last second possible.”
But she and the band made use of every moment of the 18-month on-and-off project. “It didn’t feel complete until the last tracking session,” she says.
Union Station guitarist Dan Tyminski’s cover of Del McCoury’s “Rain Please Go Away” helped “fill in the blanks” at the end, as did Krauss’ version of Donna Hughes’ “Poor Old Heart.”
“That was the last tune we found for me,” she notes. “Barry Bales heard one of her songs on the radio while driving around near his home in East Tennessee. He called her, and she sent a whole bunch of songs. We recorded it in a second.”
Other songs came from Krauss’ songwriter favorites Sidney and Suzanne Cox, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Union Station banjoist Ron Block and dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas. Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty,” with an arrangement patterned after bluegrass banjoist Dave Evans’ version, provided Tyminski with another vocal showcase.
The lead single, the Robert Lee Castleman-penned “Restless,” was the act’s first No. 1 hit in Billboard: It recently topped the Hot Country Singles Sales chart. Krauss’ only other brush with No. 1 came when she and Billy Dean added vocal parts to Kenny Rogers’ chart-topping 2000 hit “Buy Me a Rose.”
There’s also “This Sad Song,” which Krauss co-wrote years ago with former Union Station banjoist Alison Brown.
“We made that up in the back of a van when I was 17,” says Krauss, who had signed with Rounder three years prior. “The guys have wanted to record it forever, but I said no and really fought to not have it on the record. I said I’d feel better if they put it under a different name so people wouldn’t think it was me, or say I was a high-schooler [at the time]. But I guess it’s OK if nobody listens to the lyrics closely.”
Krauss’ year has included winning Grammy Awards and, more recently, Country Music Association Awards, the latter for her hit duet with Brad Paisley, “Whiskey Lullaby.”
There have also been TV performances, including the Academy Awards, CMT Flameworthy Music Awards, the PBS National Memorial Day Concert, the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies and the CMA Awards.
Krauss and the band recently performed on NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and are scheduled to do so Dec. 10 on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Appearances on CBS’ “The Early Show” and PBS’ Charlie Rose talk show also slated.
The first leg of a lengthy tour will kick off Dec. 1 in Evansville, Ind. After a few December dates, the tour will begin again in earnest Jan. 12 in Chatanooga, Tenn., according to Krauss’ official Web site.
Excerpted from the Dec. 4, 2004, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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