For Alison Krauss, musical collaboration has been a way of life. Her own story, of course, has been nothing short of amazing: signed to Rounder Records as a precocious, fourteen-year-old fiddler from Champaign, Illinois, she has, over two decades, become the most recognized face in contemporary bluegrass and a critically acclaimed artist who has brought modern sophistication to the genre while respecting its traditions. Krauss has consistently worked to honor her influences, like contemporary bluegrass pioneer Tony Rice, to promote discoveries like the Cox Family and Nickel Creek and to offer her skills as producer for those artists and others, most recently, country star Alan Jackson.
With her twelfth release, A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection, Krauss gathers on one elegantly understated disc several previously released collaborations with such artists and friends as Brad Paisley, John Waite, James Taylor, Natalie MacMaster and The Chieftains, along with songs she cut for the films Cold Mountain, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and an “inspired by” album for the animated The Prince of Egypt. Already making its way to radio is the remake of Waite’s “Missing You,” which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has called “a killer duet” with an “incandescent” Krauss. She also recorded and produced five new tracks, including a soulful slow-dance tempo of Don Williams’ “Lay Down Beside Me” with Rounder Records label-mate Waite, to create something far more than just a compilation. With 16 songs, A Hundred Miles or More gracefully balances the new with the familiar to form a vivid portrait of this adventurous artist, chronicling the places she’s been and showcasing the hauntingly beautiful solo work Krauss is making right now.
While Union Station took a hiatus from touring for most of 2006, Krauss took full advantage of the down time to explore new musical horizons. Her production of Alan Jackson’s 2006 release, Like Red on a Rose, which the Chicago Sun-Times declared “a masterpiece,” took the best-selling artist out of his familiar surroundings to create a moody, intimate song cycle that has been favorably compared to Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours. The New York Times described it as “a deeply country record that sounds nothing like a country record.” Following the project with Jackson, she recorded the five new tracks for the collection release and worked with long time engineer Gary Paczosa to remix several of the other tracks. As other musical opportunities arose, she relished the opportunity to work, guesting as harmony vocalist or fiddler on several outside projects. Last December, she traveled to Washington, DC to salute Dolly Parton - no slouch herself in the bluegrass department - at the Kennedy Center Honors, performing Parton’s classics “Jolene” and “My Tennessee Mountain Home” with her friends Suzanne Cox (of the Cox Family) and Cheryl White (of the vocal trio The Whites).
Krauss reached that extraordinary 20 Grammy milestone when her last album with Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways, was named 2005’s Best Country Album. It wasn’t the only award she and her band-mates took home from the 48th Annual Grammys: “Unionhouse Branch” garnered Best Country Instrumental Performance and “Restless” received the Best Country Performance by a Duo/Group Award. She’s also been on the receiving end of several Country Music Association Awards, including Musical Event of the Year for “Whiskey Lullaby” with Brad Paisley, originally released on Paisley’s Mud on the Hill and reprised on A Hundred Miles or More. The International Bluegrass Music Association Awards have honored her on several occasions, most recently for Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’ – Songs of the Louvin Brothers, which features her duet with James Taylor, “How’s the World Treating You,” also included on the new album. The two tracks she cut for the Cold Mountain soundtrack, “The Scarlet Tide” and “You Will Be My Ain True Love” (with Sting on harmony vocals) were nominated for Oscars in 2004.
More impressive, however, than any of these accolades has been Krauss’s unwavering commitment to being an independent-label artist who has succeeded far beyond the scope of many major-label artists. She’s been able to circulate freely within pop, mainstream country and roots music circles, creating impeccably produced records that appeal to an equally wide-ranging and inquisitive audience. Krauss has continued doing things the old-fashioned way: following her heart and whatever path the music takes her.
A truly breathtaking collection of eleven exquisite songs, Paper Airplane (2011) is Alison Krauss’ fourteenth album and the band’s follow-up to 2004’s triple Grammy-winning Lonely Runs Both Ways (Rounder). It is Krauss’ first release since her 2007 internationally acclaimed, multi-platinum collaboration with Robert Plant, Raising Sand, which won six Grammys including “Record of The Year” and “Album of The Year.”