Windy City (Deluxe)
I don’t know quite what to make of the ‘Stepford Wives’ image of Alison Krauss on the cover of this new record. She looks a tad fragile, brittle..but we all know she is one of Americana’s strongest female performers. This Special Edition CD has live tracks to supplement the studio efforts. Given her reputation as a live performer, this decision makes a lot of sense. The artwork does have a certain style, but the track titles are very hard to read on the multi-hued back cover!
The studio is stuffed with star players and the string arrangements are exquisite if a tad unadventurous.
Losing You is a steady, slow opener, brush drumming and an almost hymnal vocal delivery with soft tremolo setting guitar. The melody is brought out, to be savoured. The song reminds me of Let It Be Me. And somehow in the phrasing, the ghost of Roy Orbison hovers overhead. What a beautiful voice!
It’s Goodbye And So Long To You has a jaunty pace, horns, steel guitar, fiddle and a touch of Reba in the spirited vocal. Sounds like a set-starter. So far the overall sound is 50s Nashville, Windy City or not. Great vocal harmonies here. Windy City, the title track tells of the move from country and city. A partner dazzled by the urban attractions and a split on the cards? Very traditional arrangement.
I Never Cared For You starts with tender piano and is the memorable bittersweet Willie Nelson tune, taken at a sly tempo and Krauss makes the most of the lyric. River In The Rain is if memory serves a Roger Miller tune. It has a solemn pace here, the drama played out in a stately way, almost edge-of-gospel. Emmylou would surely approve. The acoustic guitar break is a lovely touch – Richard Bennett ? the song suits Alison’s voice and is a highlight on the collection.
Dream Of Me has that rolling country fresh air vibe. I had to check it wasn’t a lost Dolly Parton composition. Gentle On My Mind is the John Hartford song beloved of many.
This reading does the tune and words justice but for me does nothing fresh with the song at all. All Alone Am I finds Kristin Wilkinson and her string section in awesome form, making the delicate song float softly. As laments go, this is a gem, weepy steel guitar and all. Poison Love uses a syncopated tempo to bring us an almost Tex Mex tune, it’s an early 50s song by one E Laird. It’s listenable but like so much of the album has a 1959 Wyoming jukebox atmosphere. Which is great if you love that era.
You Don’t Know Me is laidback, like Ketty Lester on downers. Krauss again gets maximum beauty from the melody and of its kind, this is outstanding. Eddy Arnold song, I think.
On now to the bonus tracks:
Make The World Go Away is the familiar UK radio hit. The tempo is unchanged and the arrangement resolutely old timey. Jamey Johnson is her singing partner, here. Til I Gain Control Again is a number I have done in shows, it’s by my man Rodney Crowell. I spot Don Was, on bass! Buddy Miller is involved too. This rendition, despite that is somewhat tame. The undercurrent of optimism the song needs is absent. Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground is another Willie Nelson composition and indeed harpist Mickey Raphael is in the mix. The concentration here is on the melody and there is little life in what could be a livelier, punchier performance.
These next cuts are all live and all from the studio sessions chosen from the main body of the release above. Windy City is rendered in duplicate form. River In The Rain is pretty much the same. Losing You has slightly more presence and the strings sound better. I Never Cared For You loses none of its impact and the electric guitar is fantastic.
The problem with this set for this listener is that the approach to the songs is far too reverential. It sounds like a superior recording of tracks put together in the 1950s. That’s no crime, but you would expect a star of this stature to bring something to the party, apart from skill and grace. As a very listenable assemblage of country songs, it does make the grade. No much here to make me replay it, though…
Alison Krauss’s new studio album ‘Windy City’ is out now on Capitol Records.
It is available in a Standard CD, Deluxe CD, Vinyl and Download formats.
Try www.alisonkrauss.com for more artist and for tour information