Album of the Week #25 – Alison Krauss & Union Station’s New Favorite

Alison Krauss - New FavoriteWhat’s more American than Alison Krauss & Union Station on the 4th of July? Unless you’re eating apple pie with a Cincinnati Reds game on the radio, while watching fireworks light up the sky…  not much.

Let’s face it: no other bluegrass artist in the past thirty years has come close to reaching the success of Alison Krauss. Everyone else’s accolades pale in comparison. She has won an outstanding 27 Grammy awards, tying her with Quincy Jones for the most Grammy-awarded individual on the planet. The all-time total is 31, which she is on pace to surpass. She has also garnered 14 IBMA awards, 8 CMA awards, 2 Gospel Music Association awards, 2 CMT awards, 2 Academy of Country Music awards, and 1 Canadian Country Music award.

With all these industry distinctions to her credit, I figure it’s high time she can finally add a coveted “Daniel Mullins’ Album of the Week” honor to her bio. My favorite Alison Krauss album is, coincidentally, New Favorite.

Released in 2001, New Favorite features a number of songs which would come to be listed among Alison’s biggest hits. It opens up with the sultry Let Me Touch You For A While. This is a very mature tune, the polar opposite of today’s “country” music, which is littered with songs of no depth whatsoever. Instead of appealing to adults, country music now caters to immature mass audiences, who have no idea that love is more than getting drunk in a truck on a Friday night with a hot girl in a bikini.

Let Me Touch You For A While shares a complex tale of weak and flawed human nature, in a way that is universally relatable. Alison highlights the viewpoints of both of the song’s characters brilliantly, and in a beautifully haunting manner. After a single hearing, you will understand why this has become one of her signature songs.

New Favorite unveiled what is now the current lineup of  Union Station. Following the departure of mandolinist Adam Steffey, the legendary Jerry Douglas signed up with AKUS. His timeless dobro work added further depth to Krauss’ already established sound, and has since become a staple part of her band’s sound. Although he had appeared on Alison’s records since the late ’80s, having him in her band allowed him to further showcase his abilities, which never ceases to amaze me. His slide work shines throughout the album, and is in the spotlight for the album’s lone instrumental, Jerry’s Choctaw Hayride.

Vocal juggernaut Dan Tyminski steps out front on a trio of New Favorite’s tracks. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn has been a favorite of AKUS fans since it’s debut here. The arrangement is one of the coolest things about this track, beginning and ending with a loose,bluesy feel (just Dan’s voice and Jerry’s dobro), opening up into a full-fledged grassy vibe in between. Dan really demonstrates his vocal power on this one.

Momma Cried also has Dan take the lead vocal. One of the most traditional songs on the album, I fear as if this one is too often overlooked. In addition to Dan’s knockout vocals, Ron Block’s banjo is dead on for this track as well. Barry Bales’ bass work and Alison’s fiddle playing are stellar as well. Make sure you don’t overlook this all-around great recording.

Another of my favorites on here is Take Me For Longing, which rivals Momma Cried for the album’s most traditional number. The song sounds as if it could be a classic mountain song – one that A.P. Carter might have mined from the hills of Appalachia – but comes from the pen of Berklee songwriting professor Mark Simos instead. Alison’s voice again shines providing her uniquely feminine take on love and attraction.

The Lucky One is by far Alison’s biggest hit from New Favorite. Winning Grammy awards for Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group and Best Country Song in 2001, this one peaked at #46 on the Billboard Hot Country chart. One of Alison’s vocal masterpieces, she captivates listeners with her poignant delivery of this song’s insightful lyrics. Over a decade later, Krauss still manages to demand my attention when she sings The Lucky One, and I know there are millions of others who feel the same way.

New Favorite also includes other great tunes such as It All Comes Down To You, Bright Sunny South, and the title track.

2001 was a banner year for AKUS. In addition to the pair of Grammy’s awarded to The Lucky One, New Favorite won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. Jerry shared a part in the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental for the Earl Scruggs & Friends edition of Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Most notably, Alison and Dan brought home Grammy’s for their part in the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack: Dan for his part in the Best Country Collaboration With Vocals on I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, and both Alison and Dan for Album of the Year.

2001 cemented Alison Krauss & Union Station as mainstays in the music industry. Since that time, the band has remained intact, which really shows in the precision of their recordings and live performances. Truly an all-star group, Alison, Dan, Barry, Ron, and Jerry are already one of those legendary lineups which will be discussed reverentially for generations to come. The admiration for this group among music industry professionals has done nothing but provide a positive image for our genre of music.

Hopefully, you can rediscover what makes this group and this album a timeless classic by digging out an old favorite in New Favorite.

New Favorite was released on Rounder Records (ROU-0495) and can be purchased thru County Sales or the Classic Country Connection. It can also be downloaded digitally via iTunes or Amazon MP3.

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About the Author

Daniel Mullins

Daniel Mullins is an IBMA award-winning journalist and broadcaster from southwestern Ohio, with an American Studies degree from Cedarville University. He hosts the Walls of Time: Bluegrass Podcast and his daily radio program, The Daniel Mullins Midday Music Spectacular, on the Real Roots Radio network. He also serves as the station’s music director, programming country, bluegrass, and Americana music.