Country standards covered by bluegrass queen
There’s an old joke about what happens if you play a country song backwards: apparently, you get your dog back, your pick-up back and your lover returns as well. Alison Krauss’ first solo album in 18 years doesn’t do a lot to contradict that stereotype, as she croons her way through ten covers of country and bluegrass standards, previously recorded by the likes of Roger Miller and Glen Campbell, handpicked by Krauss herself, along with longtime friend, songwriter and producer, Buddy Cannon.
These are songs about broken hearts, lonely nights and aching, tear-filled eyes. The titles alone can tell you a lot, with ‘All Alone Am I’ and ‘Losing You’ perfect examples of the type of string-drenched pathos that Nashville and Hollywood have made billions from. There’s no doubting the quality of Krauss’ voice, which is never short of stellar, as she wrings every drop of sentiment from these already over-wrought lyrics.
“Don’t sigh your sigh for me/ Don’t ever cry for me/ This is goodbye from me/ I know we’re through,” she croons on the opening ‘Losing You’. This pretty much sets the scene for the rest of the album, from Roger Miller’s maudlin ‘River In The Rain’ to the tear-stained title track and the aching ‘You Don’t Know Me’, penned by Cindy Walker and Eddie Arnold. Highlights include Willie Nelson’s ‘I Never Cared For You’, given a Latin twist, and Glen Campbell’s superb ‘Gentle On My Mind’.
The tone is a little uniform, although there’s a welcome change of pace with the brassy bluegrass of ‘It’s Goodbye And So Long To You’, most popularly recorded by The Osbourne Brothers, and the rollicking hoedown of ‘Poison Love’, made famous by the late Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass.
Krauss obviously loves these songs deeply and her renditions are never short on quality, but this listener would have loved to hear one or two Krauss originals to balance out the schmaltz.