Album Reviews: Lonely Runs Both Ways by Alison KraussSince the O Brother, Where Art Thou? explosion -- and subsequent Grammy and Oscar appearances -- Alison Krauss has become the most public and popular face of the mainstream’s embrace of bluegrass. Her corresponding Hollywood makeover can be clearly charted just by album cover photographs. But even before they cracked the mainstream, Krauss and her virtuoso collaborators were essential torch carriers for the genre, and they remain among the most skilled interpreters working today.
They are not, however, a band with much potential either to surprise or to disappoint. Lonely Runs Both Ways plays exactly as expected, featuring lovely, lively renditions of well-chosen songs by Robert Lee Castleman, Woody Guthrie, Welch/Rawlings and others. Jerry Douglas turns in the best original composition (“Unionhouse Branch”), a rousing instrumental showcase. Krauss herself is hardly a prolific writer, co-writing only one track (“This Sad Song”), but her lack of original output is forgiven since she could sing a physics textbook and make it sound like a hymn.
Castleman’s graceful quartet of tracks gives Krauss the most room to soar, even if “Crazy As Me” strikes an odd chord lyrically (how crazy is Alison Krauss, really?). She has an unmistakable gift for drawing out the profound yearning at the core of all her songs. When Union Station wants to kick up their heels, lead vocals are handed over to Dan Tyminski (the singing voice of George Clooney in O Brother). On Lonely, Krauss, Tyminski and company further solidify -- and justify -- their place at the top. - Adam McKibbin
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