Review: "Windy City" - Alison Krauss

by Kevin Quinn,

Adopting a novel approach in her work this album sees Alison Krauss' team (and dream) up with legendary Nashville writer/producer Buddy Cannon, it is he who selected the ten tracks for Krauss the ‘enchanteuse’ to perform this particular songbook with wonderful results.

Ranging from sung-standards (Ray Charles, Glen Campbell) to the lesser-known composed (Manos Hadjidakis) the album encapsulates love and loss, feelings of loneliness and dreams of homeliness although there is hope amongst the despair, a breeze within the air. Each choice is suffused with a core of ‘happy-sad’ yet it also contains the spirit of freedom and redemption without pity.

The cover version can be heard as tribute, homage, a nod to one’s past, an appreciation of a collective cultural history and as an artistic articulation of reinvention and resuscitation (both of the canon and the performer’s raison d’etre) a route to roots. You are not only competing with history, but, also with the perception of meaning and memory.

Originally recorded by Brenda Lee in 1963 Losing You is a gut-wrenching paean to heartbreak, the realization that what you’ve been witnessing (collapse) is nearing its completion. Possibly for the better.

The (de)parting wave off ‘It’s goodbye and so long to you’ is superlative boogie-woogie barn rock, take your partner by the hand, escort him to the exit then dance the night away with someone else. The boot’s on the other foot, this bluegrass is always greener.

Roger Miller’s Broadway ode to Huckleberry Finn, River in the Rain, addresses the trajectory of the tides, the torment of the elements. A metaphor for escape and wild abandon. Banjo-yes!

Cannon’s own Dream of Me (with the man himself on background vocals along with his daughter) was a firm favorite of Krauss’s without her knowing its origins. Its plaint one of without dreams reality is insufferable, dreaming is believing.

The perennially affecting Gentle On My Mind, long associated with Glen Campbell, is a torch song par excellence, the light always burning brightly, the very thought of that ‘someone’ the fuel and drive to continue. An evocative existential excursion.

In the literal sense a ‘cover’ seeks to obscure something and in doing so de-route all attention to this new interpretation. Krauss achieves this with aplomb. Less his-story, more her-story.

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