Alison Krauss, master of the ethereal ballad, is hooting - loudly, indelicately and persistently.
The 25-year-old musician is looking at old photographs of herself in one of her band member’s scrapbook.
“Oh my Gawd!” she screeches. “Not much I can do about some ugly pictures!”
Krauss, thin and blond, has seen her every fashion risk and hair style regularly plastered in local newspapers ever since winning fiddle contests as a child.
The clippings multiplied as an adult when her 1995 compilation CD, “Now That I’ve Found You: a Collection,” sold more than 2 million copies and catapulted her fame beyond the bluegrass world. She subsequently was named the Country Music Association’s female vocalist of the year.
During the height of Alison Krauss fever in 1995, the singer regularly was stricken with migraine headaches. Two years later, mainstream country music radio stations have moved on to new phenomenon such as LeAnn Rimes. Krauss says the migraines are a thing of the past and she’s learned to live with the costs of celebrity.
“I think you can easily disappoint the people that you meet,” Krauss said. “I remember there was this little girl in Virginia who was sick and this guy gave me her picture and said, ‘Call her on the phone and say hi to her - she loves you.’
“I lost that picture that had her number on the back. See, they don’t know that I lost it. … They just think I’m a jerk!”
Coming off a two-month vacation, Krauss was visibly refreshed and high-spirited as she anticipated the release of her band’s first album of all-new material in five years.
“So Long, So Wrong” is out on her longtime label, the independent Rounder Records. It is definitely a band album, mixing traditional bluegrass (a short, burning instrumental of the standard “Little Liza Jane”), lead vocals by other members of her band, Union Station, and hypnotic ballads that are Krauss’ trademark (“It Doesn’t Matter” and “I Can Let Go Now”).
Krauss remains devoted to fellow musicians Barry Bales, Ron Block, Adam Steffey and Dan Tyminski. The band has been billed as Alison Krauss & Union Station for several years.
“If I was going solo, I would ask all those guys to play on the record,” Krauss said. “I mean, would you want to leave that format? They’re the greatest. … Those guys are my best friends.”
Krauss grew up roller-skating to classic rock in Champaign, Ill. She won ribbons and trophies at bluegrass fiddle contests, and her first album, “Too Late to Cry,” was released by Rounder when she was 16.
She’s still an ace fiddler, and is developing a career as a producer on her own records and that of The Cox Family of Louisiana. She’s hearkened back to her roller-skating days for some production touches on “So Long, So Wrong,” most obviously on a brief introduction and longer coda that bookend the record.
“We wanted to make new sounds with the same old thing,” Krauss said. Taking inspiration from her favorite Def Leppard CDs (“Hysteria” and “Pyromania”), she layered instruments in the recording studio to create a fuller sound.
Krauss beams as she recounts such adventures in the recording studio, far removed from the headaches of 1995.
“I only get ‘em now if I don’t get enough sleep and when there’s light coming in from the window when I wake up,’ she said.
“It’s a deadly combo.”
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