Alison Krauss (born July 23, 1971) is an American bluegrass–country singer, songwriter and fiddler. She entered the music industry at an early age, winning local contests by the age of ten and recording for the first time at fourteen. She signed with Rounder Records in 1985 and released her first solo album in 1987.
She was invited to join the band with which she still performs, Alison Krauss and Union Station (AKUS), and later released her first album with them as a group in 1989.
She has released twelve albums, appeared on numerous soundtracks, and helped renew interest in bluegrass music in the United States. Her soundtrack performances have led to further popularity, including the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, an album also credited with raising American interest in bluegrass, and the Cold Mountain soundtrack, which led to her performance at the 2004 Academy Awards. As of the 2011 Grammy Awards, she has won 26 Grammy Awards, making her the most awarded singer, the most awarded female artist, and tied for the third most awarded artist overall in Grammy history. At the time of her first award, at the 1991 Grammy Awards, she was the second youngest winner ever (currently tied as third youngest).
Krauss’s earliest musical experience was as an instrumentalist, though her style has grown to focus more on her vocals with a band providing most of the instrumentation. Musicians she enjoys include Lou Gramm of Foreigner and Paul Rodgers of Bad Company. Krauss’ family listened to “folk records” while she was growing up, but she had friends who exposed her to groups such as AC/DC, Carly Simon, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and ELO. She cites Dolly Parton, with whom she has since collaborated a number of times, as a major influence. Some credit Krauss and Union Station, at least partially, with a recent revival of interest in bluegrass music in the United States. Despite being together for nearly two decades and winning numerous awards, she said the group was “just beginning right now” (in 2002) because “in spite of all the great things that have happened for the band, [she] feel[s] musically it’s just really beginning.” Although she alternates between solo releases and works with the band, she has said there is no difference in her involvement between the two.
As a group, AKUS have been called “American favourites,” “world-beaters,” and “the tightest band around.” While they have been successful as a group, many reviews note Krauss still “remains the undisputed star and rock-solid foundation” and have described her as the “band’s focus” with an “angelic” voice that “flows like honey”. Her work has been compared to that of The Cox Family, Bill Monroe, and Del McCoury, and has in turn been credited with influencing various “Newgrass” artists including Nickel Creek, for which she acted as record producer on two of their albums. In addition to her work with Nickel Creek, she has acted as producer to the Cox Family, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson. Adam Sweeting of The Guardian has said Krauss and Union Station are “superb when they stick to hoedowns and hillbilly music, but much less convincing when they lurch towards the middle of the road,” and Blender magazine has said the “flavorless repertoire [Krauss] sings… steers her toward Lite FM”. In addition, Q magazine and The Onion AV Club have said their newer releases are “pretty much the usual,” and that although Krauss is generally “adventurous,” these recent releases contain nothing to “alienate the masses”.