Alison Krauss

All posts tagged Alison Krauss

September is here – and nearly over – and I nearly forgot my 2018 New Year Resolution of listening to more, new music (new to me)! So, looking again to Alfie for inspiration, I decided on an artist who both recorded a song that Alfie went on to record and who has worked with someone who Alfie has also worked with.

I am talking about bluegrass, country singer Alison Krauss who wrote Onward’s A Living Prayer, much loved by Alfie fans and featured at number ten in this year’s best ever song poll.  The artist that both Krauss and Alfie have worked with is Robert Plant; Alfie on the track Song to the Siren and Krauss on a collaborative album, Raising Sand.  In both cases, the pairing was somewhat surprising but wonderful.

Krauss and Union Station have released numerous albums, both solo and together so I chose a few albums to listen to, including Raising Sand as the partnership with Robert Plant was intriguing to say the least.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The vocals are in perfect harmony and it seems incredible to the listener that this was not a long term collaboration when recorded.  When it’s right, it’s right.  Killing The Blues is my favourite track:

The melody and vocals wrap the listener in a warm blanket of harmony and bluegrass – loved it. Straight after Killing The Blues comes the uptempo Gone, Gone, Gone:

Both artists seem to be having so much fun here and the catchy lyrics and beat have danceability in spades – I dare you to sit still whilst listening!  Other stand out tracks were Stick With Me Baby and Please Read The Letter.  Can you tell, I really liked this album?

Moving onto an earlier album for Krauss and Union Station, 2004’s Lonely Runs Both Ways has A Living Prayer on (click here to see this) but that’s not the song I enjoyed most.  That honour goes to Goodbye Is All We Have:

Perfectly suited to Krauss’s pure vocals, the song plays to her strengths – many of her songs are ballads and the emotion she portrays in song shines out here.  Restless, the opening track and Gravity are the best of the rest.

Finally, the last album I looked at was Krauss’s first solo album for a while, Windy City, released in 2017.  The stand out track here is Goodbye and So Long To You:

Out and out country, it’s a song that screams joy and is in the best tradition of country women standing up for themselves. Another one I couldn’t sit still for.   In contrast, the ballad, River in the Rain is just beautiful, showing the range of Krauss’s voice:

All in all, this was one of the more enjoyable aspects of my New Year Resolution – I’ll be delving more deeply into Krauss’s back catalogue from now on.

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Hot on the heels of February’s Alfie Boe Album of the Month, Love Was A Dream, we come to the featured album for March, Onward.

Onward, released in 2007 was Alfie’s first album with EMI and the track list reflects the religious theme that the label wanted Alfie to record.  Reading his autobiography, My Story, Alfie had definite ideas about the arias that he wanted to sing (Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem) but EMI instead chose the populist route of Lord is My Shepherd, Amazing Grace etc. These are beautifully sung by Alfie but I think the label really missed a trick in not going with Alfie’s choices.  Having said that, Onward was nominated for Best Album at the Classical Brit Awards so what do I know?  The following clip is from Songs of Praise, I Wonder As I Wander, one of a couple of Christmas tracks on the album:

From the recent thoughtsofjustafan survey, Onward is one of the less well owned albums (72% of respondents own it) and this could well be that some fans are not religiously inclined and do not want to buy an album of (mainly) hymns.  Alternatively, it could be that it dates from Alfie’s pre Les Mis days and is therefore less well known.  Again, having said that, most of the songs here (click here for the complete track list) also appear on Alfie’s later You’ll Never Walk Alone which recently came back into the Classical Top Ten and stayed there for several weeks.

To those who are in the former category, I would say that you definitely do not have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of Onward.  Alfie’s voice soars over each song and as with most of his music, I struggle to think of anyone else singing them now.  As a man of faith, I think he brings something extra to this album for that reason – it was interesting that he chose Be Still, My Soul as his faith song on Good Morning Sunday in 2014.  It clearly means a lot to him.  He also sang this particular hymn on Songs of Praise, The Big Sing in 2012:

In my view, the most successful tracks are Britten’s Balulalow, Rossini’s Cujus Animam and the sheer beauty of Alison Krauss’s A Living Prayer which opens the album.  For different reasons, all three tracks showcase the depth and strength of Alfie’s voice as well as his classical training and technique.  In his book, Alfie says that he would like to re-record A Living Prayer as he felt they couldn’t do it justice due to time constraints during recording; wouldn’t it also be lovely if he also revisited Cujus Animam?

Although from reading Alfie’s story you might think that this is Alfie’s least favourite album (or at least least professionally satisfying), the material is amongst some of his most regularly performed repertoire from his early recording career.  That is probably because of the religious nature of the tracks and Alfie has appeared at a fair amount of concerts  and TV programmes with a religious feel; The MoTab Christmas Concert, Songs of Praise and The Festival of Remembrance spring to mind.

I find that I don’t listen to Onward as much as I do other Alfie albums although I do find that as each of Alfie’s albums has it’s own voice, there is often a space in my life that Onward fits into perfectly.  If peace and solace is what you need, Onward is a pretty good place to start. Click on the image below to order:

Alfie onward

Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is also available:

alfie autobio

 

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So, we have finally reached the end – numbers 1 and 2 of Alfie Boe’s Top Ten Best Ever Songs.  Now, when I first conceived the idea of a poll to find fans favourite Alfie song, I admit I was keen to see the list.  Little did I think that the long list (click here for the playlist on Spotify) would run to 36 songs and over 2 hours!  The songs chosen were from all of Alfie’s albums but the results of the Top Ten vote were a little surprising – most fans say they love Alfie’s classical side but that is not reflected here.

I can also admit that I was hoping that fans everywhere would be reminded that Alfie’s recorded repertoire is very diverse and is not just about Bring Him Home! Having said that, I can now reveal that the number 2 song is…A Living Prayer, which leaves the top spot taken by, you guessed it, Bring Him Home!

Leaving aside BHH (for the moment) let’s talk about A Living Prayer.  Recorded for the Onward album, I was surprised to see it in the top ten at all and even more surprised to see it come in at number 2 behind Alfie’s most well known song.  Many voters gave a reason for nominating and voting for this song and a common thread through all the stories was the soaring melody and beauty of Alfie’s voice helping them through a tough time.  Written and recorded by Alison Krauss in 1994, here is Alfie’s version (it’s also a video featuring Alfie looking most like Dec Donnelly!):

And so we come to Bring Him Home, without question Alfie’s most popular and famous song.  The vast majority of fans who have come to know Alfie since 2010 (myself included) have done so through Les Miserables, Jean Val Jean and Bring Him Home – Alfie’s star really was born at the 25th anniversary concert.  Everything that has come since started on that day and ensures that Alfie will continue to sing Bring Him Home for as long as the demand is there.  So forever basically!

There are so many videos of Alfie singing this song that I was at a loss to pick one – hope the one I went for is ok! I chose it as I was there that night, as were a lot of you, and many fans I am proud to call friends can be seen there:

If you don’t yet have Onward or Bring Him Home, just click on the images to order from Amazon.

Alfie onward

Alfie’s new album, Serenata can also be ordered from Amazon:

serenata

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