|part of:||Grammy Award: Best Country Album nominees (number: 2006 winner) (order: 12)|
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Even before you press play, you know it's going to be good.
A cursory glance through the sleeve notes gives the first clue. Returning to the writers who have provided some of the finest moments in Alison Krauss & Union Station's output suggests that Lonely Runs Both Ways is not going to be a radical departure from the band's previous work. Good! Because the band which has defined the sound of contemporary bluegrass over the last decade or so raises the bar in acoustic music with every new record.
Robert Lee Castleman - who we have to thank for the exquisite title track from Krauss' Forget About It album plus other beauties like "Let Me Touch You For Awhile" and the Grammy Award-winning "The Lucky One" provides four of the songs here. Sweet and simple melodies allow Krauss' soaring vocal to deliver those killer lines about love that never quite meets expectations: 'I don't know the answer...but I know who to blame' ("Doesn't Have To be This Way").
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - who wrote the elegantly heartbreaking closer on their last studio album, 2001's New Favorite - provide another bed for the bittersweet harmonies of Dan Tyminski and Krauss here in "Wouldn't Be So Bad".
But there's none of this special guest business to disturb proceedings. Even former band member, banjoist Alison Brown, doesn't get a look in on the track she co-wrote with Krauss, "This Sad Song".
Perhaps it's the determination not to mess with the chemistry that makes Union Station the tightest band around. A virtuoso fiddle player blessed with uniquely angelic vocals, as a band leader Krauss is a perfectionist who plays to her trusted musicians' strengths. And when you're backed by Barry Bales on bass, Dobro ace Jerry Douglas and guitarist and vocalist Dan Tyminski (who, lest we forget, was the singing voice of George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou?), why change?
Consequently, all the tracks - whether sprightly bluegrass written by Del McCoury like "Rain Please Go Away" or the old Woody Guthrie favourite "Pastures Of Plenty"- have that Union Station stamp that seems to get slicker with every album they put out. Krauss has even put on a posh frock and had her hair done for the cover. Perhaps she's anticipating more awards ceremonies...