Alison Krauss ”Windy City” (Decca/Capitol, 2017)

Alison Krauss is phenomenal. Whether you look at figures like her record 27 Grammy Awards, millions of records sold, career longevity or simply judge her from the purity of her vocals, Krauss really is one of the stand-out performers in modern music. Windy City is her first solo record in 18 years, after she took a hiatus to record music with her Union Station band. The album is a tribute to older classics, with tracks such as those originally performed by artists like Glen Campbell, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson and The Osborne Brothers. With a sensitive touch provided by producer Buddy Cannon, it’s a masterpiece of music re-interpretation and a fitting ode to the giants on whose shoulders present artists stand on. 

Losing You was the first single to be released from the project, and a fine choice it was because Alison’s version of Brenda Lee’s song is absolutely perfect, from the vocal performance to the well-balanced fiddle, bass and piano backing. Adopting a slow tempo, the wailing of the steel guitars really accentuates the melancholy of the track, something that Alison’s stunning vocals also capture.

It’s Goodbye And So Long To You raises the energy, with fast steel guitar picking and jazzy piano in the background. You can imagine seeing this play out in a classic speakeasy in the roaring ‘20s. It is much more of a jazz number than anything else we hear on the record, with a bluesy sound coming from a brass band, including a great trumpet solo towards the end of the track.

Windy City itself is another highlight of the record, with a gorgeous guitar and bass accompaniment to the swing rhythm of the song. Likewise River In The Rain slows the tempo right down, climaxing with the dramatic chorus made all the more potent by the heavy touch on the grand piano in the accompaniment. The ingredients are so simple, and yet the resultant masterpiece of music is something so interesting and organic. Towards the end of the track we get a build up of backing, with a tuba providing depth and steel guitar soaring above for a delicate interest.

Gentle On My Mind is one of my very favourite classic tracks, and one that has been re-interpreted a few times recently, mostly to good reception. This is probably one of the fastest tracks on the record, with an elegant acoustic guitar picking in the backing before the song crescendos into the second verse with banjo and percussion adding into the mix. Alison’s vocals are almost a bit delicate for the song, but a harmony leading into the 4th chorus helps thicken out the performance and provides an interesting mix of musical styles into the fray.

Windy City is an absolutely marvellous record. Playing at a short 32 minutes, the record is very easy listening and beautifully arranged. Buddy Cannon and Alison Krauss form a wonderful partnership, with Alison’s stunning vocal performance shining above a wonderfully balanced musical backing. Never is this more on show than in the final song You Don’t Know Me which combines the delicate tinkling of a piano with the organic sounds of steel guitar and acoustic guitar. This record is definitely worth a purchase.

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