The International Bluegrass Music Association has made its announcement for this year’s Hall of Fame induction. The three inductees are definitely worthy. The Stoneman Family should have been inducted years ago, given the fact that they had been playing bluegrass music for years, especially Pops Stoneman. Lynn Morris was at her peak of popularity in bluegrass when health concerns forced her to step away from the stage about a decade or so back.
Then there is Alison Krauss. For some music fans who dabble in bluegrass, she is the first thing that comes to their minds, even before the thought of Bill Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs. She developed a style that put bluegrass music close to soft rock or easy-listening pop. Traditionalists frown upon her sound, but one has to admit, her music was extremely popular, and did bring a lot of interest into bluegrass as a whole.
Alison was a child fiddle prodigy, winning numerous contests before signing with Rounder Records at the age of 17. She was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry at 22, and has won 27 Grammy Awards during her career. Her voice is definitely not high lonesome, but that is what attracts many to her. It has carried her into many other music formats, including the award-winning work with legendary rock vocalist Robert Plant and country music star Brad Paisley.
Her band Union Station provides an amazing canvas for her, yet she does not look at them as backup musicians. Members have shared lead vocals with her, and have gone on to great recognition as well. The live shows of AKUS have always been powerful. One of my favorite live albums of all time is the band’s album from 2004. Every song is spot-on! It sounds as fresh today as it did 17 years ago.
Yes, the past 15 years or so has seen very little bluegrass output from Alison. But unlike s many others, she never let bluegrass be a barrier to her. That remarkable voice was meant to sing different genres. It is so recognizable that you can tell it is hers from the first note. Moreover, the role of the female in bluegrass today owes so much to Alison. Not only was her voice different, but she made it possible for a woman to lead a bluegrass band, play an instrument with amazing skill, and be taken seriously. Take a look at a list of today’s bluegrass bands, and one can see that at least 10 percent of them have a lineup that parallels what AKUS has been doing since the 1990s.
Alison’s work changed the face of bluegrass music. Not for better or worse, but for exposure. She helped keep it in the spotlight during her early years as well as was a major part of the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, especially her vocal performance of “Down to the River to Pray.” Through it all, she has kept up a humble and warm personality. People love her, and she is very appreciative of that. There is a reason that she received the National Medal of the Arts form President Trump in 2019!
So congratulations, Alison. I am happy for all of the success that you have had, and my one hope is that you put out another straight-ahead bluegrass fiddle album in the future.
Chew on it and comment.