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Alison Krauss
A Hundred Miles Or More: A Collection
Rounder Records

Bluegrass-country artist Alison Krauss has released a collection of her recent hits, some of which feature her band Union Station and other tracks with Sting, John Waite, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, and members of The Chieftains. Often compared to the voice of an archangel, Alison Krauss' vocals have a dreamy, ethereal quality which give her tunes a lullaby tranquility and a folktale inflection likened to Polly Vaughan and Patty Griffin. Her latest release Hundred Miles Or More: Collection gives music fans an overview of her skill for blissfully hushing nursery rhymes, gentle cumulus currents, pastel toned tales, and beautifully thatched melodies. Alison Krauss has a way of making every word in the English language have a chimerical lilt whether she is singing pop/rock, Celtic/folk, lullaby ballads, gospel spirituals, or a whooping bluegrass shindig; it all sounds cerebrally astral and empyreal with airy colonnades.

The lax acoustics and downy textures of "Scarlet Tide," "You're Just A Country Boy," "Simple Love," and the nursery rhyme "Baby Mine" - the theme song to Disney's movie animation Dumbo - are mollified by mellow tempos and dulcet verses. The lethargic beats of "Away Down The River" melt into Krauss' lush vocals which fill the dimly pulsed melody, while the high-strung bluegrass do-si-dos of "Sawing On The Strings" have galloping fiddles and banjos pumping through the upbeat vocals and cheerful phrases. The a capella spiritual "Down To The River To Pray" is silhouette in reposing vocal vibrations, while the smoky acoustic guitar rings on "Jacob's Dream" are swathed in sullen mists and lubricating vocals that sail like satin into salient hoists. Few artists can sing with Krauss' proficiency for dreamy rises along blanched melodies.

The Celtic chimes and tribal beats on "Molly Ban," an Irish folktale which a number of artists have done before including The Corrs, feature instrumentation by members of The Chieftains. The dancing pipes and lightly tossed fiddles and guitars undertone Krauss' striking vocal crescendos. The clement-laden acoustics for "How's The World Treating You," Krauss' duet with James Taylor, would be idle if not for her breathy vocal incisions. Her pairing with Sting for "You Will Be My Ain True Love" from Jude Law's movie Cold Mountain is tenderly versed with silky vocal glides and elysian violins. Krauss' duet with Brad Paisley, "Whiskey Lullaby", sulks into dark moods and slow splashing movements along somber lyrics narrating a tragic tale: "She put him out like the burning end of a midnight cigarette/ She broke his heart/ He spent his whole life trying to forget/ We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time/ But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind."

The airy pastel tones in "I Give You To His Heart" augment the dreamy rise of Krauss' vocals while the tranquil piano score on "Get Me Through December" snuggles with the wiggling fiddles and lacy vocals. The final two tracks are duets with singer-songwriter John Waite. His hit song "Missing You" infuses Waite's vocals with Krauss singing back to him on the counter verses. The effect is really cool because for the first time it sounds like Waite isn't singing to himself but to someone who is answering him back, very similarly to the way Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill's duets come off. Whereas Waite's and Krauss' vocal twining on the country-pop ballad "Lay Down Beside Me" has a deeper likeness to early George Jones and Tammy Wynette duets.

Alison Krauss' latest collection of tunes shows her fondness for hushing nursery rhymes, softly textured folktales, tragic ballads, but also upbeat tempos, which is a first for her. Accompanied by her band mates - Dan Tyminski (guitar), Barry Bales (bass), Ron Block (banjo and guitar), and Jerry Douglas (dobra) - Alison Krauss and Union Station (AKUS) have played together since 1989. Maybe the biggest reason they are still together is because they give themselves creative freedom to go outside of the band to learn something new and then bring it into the band. Krauss' latest collection is a testament to this.

Krauss was born in Champaign, Illinois and signed to Rounder Records when she was 14. She was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1993 and turned 22 that year. She has recorded with a number of recording artists including Vince Gill, Shania Twain, Mindy Smith, Joan Osborne, Jedd Hughes, Dar Williams, Dolly Parton, and Alan Jackson, to name a few. Krauss has won an impressive 20 Grammy Awards in bluegrass and country music, and she has not peaked if her latest collection is any indication of her future. The album isn't about her limitations, but about music that even surprises herself when she sings it.

-Susan Frances

Track listing:
1. You're Just A Country Boy
2. Simple Love
3. Jacob's Dream
4. Away Down The River
5. Sawing On The Strings
6. Down To The River To Pray
7. Baby Mine
8. Molly Ban
9. How's The World Treating You
10. The Scarlet Tide
11. Whiskey Lullaby
12. You Will Be My Ain True Love
13. I Give You His True Heart
14. Get Me Through December
15. Missing You
16. Lay Down Beside Me

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