What is left to say about Alison Krauss that hasn’t already been said? A 27-time Grammy Award winner, her legendary status on the country music scene hardly demands reinforcing, yet this year she releases her first solo album in 17 years, a record entirely composed of covers without a single writing credit to her name, and still manages to produce a record that sounds as fresh as the day the songs were originally pressed to vinyl.
Windy City is a carefully curated album, bringing together 10 classic country songs selected along with veteran Nashville producer Buddy Cannon (Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn to name but a few), panning different eras and providing a musical history which captures Krauss in her absolute prime.
Sandwiched between Brenda Lee’s Losing You and Ray Charles’ You Don’t Know Me, she breathes new life into old souls, her undeniably distinctive vocal and members of long-time collaborators from Union Station energising the timeless heartache of country blues. A dominant theme of lost love certainly pervades, but the record does have a tendency to jump around between a solemn lovelorn loneliness and brass-blaring bluegrass twanging – It’s Goodbye And So Long To You, originally recorded by The Osborne Brothers is a joyful addition, but to follow on from the rousing emotion of the opening track feels jarring.
Though many of the tracks are recognisable to those with an ear tuned to vintage bluegrass and Americana, this doesn’t read like a cover album in the slightest. Perhaps the absence of an obvious narrative could maybe have benefitted from more selective track ordering in order to be fully immersed in the distinctly different moods offered by the variation in genres. For this writer, who could happily listen to Krauss sing her way through the Great American Songbook of Heartbreak and Broken Relationships until her voice gave out, it’s a purely selfish sentiment.
This album, however, will undeniably go down as one of Krauss’ great achievements, and she will long remain up there with the enduring queens of country.