Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Celebrating Women in Music: Alison Krauss

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlightbluegrass-country American singer-songwriter and musician, Alison Krauss. 

Alison Krauss has enjoyed no shortage of accolades in her career. She has released 14 albums and received 27 Grammy Awards as of 2012, tying her with Quincy Jones for the most for any living artist. She helped bring bluegrass to a new audience in the '90s. Blending bluegrass with folk, Krauss was instantly acclaimed from the start of her career, but it wasn't until her platinum-selling 1995 compilation Now That I've Found You that she became a mainstream star. Between her 1987 debut Too Late to Cry and Now That I've Found You, she matured from a child prodigy to a versatile, ambitious, and diverse musician and, in the process, made some of the freshest bluegrass of the late '80s and early '90s.

Alison Maria Krauss was born in Decatur, Illinois to Fred and Louise Krauss. Her father was a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1952 and taught his native language. Her mother, of German and Italian descent, is the daughter of artists. Alison grew up in the college town of Champaign, home to the University of Illinois.

When she was five years old, Krauss began playing the violin, taking classical lessons. She soon tired of the regimen of classical playing and began performing country and bluegrass licks. At the age of eight, she began entering talent contests in and around Champaign. Two years later, she had her own band. In 1983, when she was 12 years old, she won the Illinois State Fiddle Championship and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America named her the Most Promising Fiddler in the Midwest. In 1985, Krauss made her recording debut on an album, playing on a record made by her brother Viktor, Jim Hoiles, and Bruce Weiss. The album was called Different Strokes and appeared on the independent Fiddle Tunes label. Later that year, she signed to Rounder Records. She was 14 years old at the time.

Too Late to Cry, Krauss' debut album, appeared in 1987 to very positive reviews. The album was recorded with Krauss' backup band, Union Station, which featured guitarist Jeff White, banjoist Alison Brown, and bassist Viktor Krauss; the following year, the group won the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America's National Band Championship contest. In 1989, Krauss and Union Station released Two Highways, which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Recording. Although the album didn't win the award, her next album, 1990's I've Got That Old Feeling, did. The success of that record was unprecedented for bluegrass acts in the 80s and it laid the groundwork for Krauss' breakthrough in the 90s. By this time, Union Station's lineup had more or less settled. It now featured mandolinist Adam Steffey, banjoist/guitarist Ron Block, bassist Barry Bales, and guitarist Tim Stafford; Stafford later left the group and was replaced by Dan Tyminski.

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