Allison Krauss: A Hundred Miles or More

Every last gorgeous Alison Krauss guest spot or soundtrack contribution, right here, in a shimmering newgrass pool of prettiness.

Allison Krauss

A Hundred Miles or More

Subtitle: A Collection
Contributors: Allison Krauss, John Waite, Sting, James Taylor, The Chieftans, Brad Paisley, Jerry Dounglas
Label: Rounder
US Release Date: 2007-04-03
UK Release Date: 2007-04-02

Allison Krauss -- she of the pretty face, the angelic voice, the piquant fiddle -- is out to make the world safe for bluegrass; and she has largely succeeded. In the last 20 years -- beginning as a teenager signed to the label that still supports her -- she has taken the keening edge off of bluegrass and won the music new converts. Along the way, she has won more Grammy awards than any other female artist -- a whopping 20.

What?! Allison Krauss is the most Grammy-ed woman in history? Like, she's won five more than Springsteen. How can that be?

The answer, in a sense, lies in this recent collection, A Hundred Miles or More. On the one hand, Krauss has astonishing talent: her singing is nuanced and emotional, and her fiddling is top-flight. But more importantly, she brings a super-accessible "adult contemporary" vibe to all manner of projects -- movie soundtracks, country music collaborations, old-timey folk, Celtic music. This collection of contributions to all manner of side projects confirms Krauss as both a major talent and a too-pretty-by-half bit of window dressing. As wonderful as the contents of A Hundred Miles of More may be, it's all so sweet that your tongue almost hurts listening too it straight through.

If you've ever seen Krauss in concert with her band Union Station, then you know that she is a confection best sampled in context. She has always been a true bluegrass musician -- a member of a band who fiddles, sings solo, sings in glorious stacked harmonies, and sings back-up to other soloists. In Union Station, she is just one flavor -- in addition to her killer ballad singing, there are also fired up instrumentals, the bold vinegar vocals of Dan Tyminski, and the Hendrix-level dobro playing of Jerry Douglas. That band, popular as it is, comes as a four-course meal. If you hear Krauss' singing as the dessert, that's okay because she is more delicious than the whole band.

A Hundred More Miles, however, serves up a whole lot of Allison a la mode. Union Station makes a few appearances, of course, but more of the disc features Krauss in her cinematic or collaborative bag. Of course, "Scarlet Tide" and "You Will Be My Ain True Love" from Cold Mountain are here, as are "Down to the River to Pray" from O Brother, Where Art Thou?", her Official Big Break. It's nice to get these breakout tunes on an actual Allison Krauss album, though it's hard to imagine many fans not having sprung for the soundtrack discs. A more obscure track -- and undeniably lovely -- is "I Give to You His Heart", Krauss's folk/gospel contribution to the King of Egypt soundtrack. It's the kind of thing that Krauss does better than just about anybody.

Even more of the record features Krauss as an able and sympathetic duet partner. "Whiskey Lullaby" was a fair hit for her with Brad Paisley in 2003, and it's here. Also, Krauss duets with James Taylor on "How's the World Treating You" (from the great Louvin Brothers tribute disc). While these gentle ballad tracks are different from Krauss's traditional bluegrass material in that they feature drums as part of an acoustic sound, things are really different on her collaboration with John Waite on "Missing You". A hit for Waite in 1984, and again for Tina Turner in 1996, it's somewhat shocking to hear it belted out by Allison -- the driving beat and pop-rock texture is a sure contrast to most of Hundred Miles. A second duet with Waite (now recording country pop for Rounder) is more what you would expect, however; the peaceful surface of the compilation is not much disturbed.

Serious Krauss fans will be most interested in the five new tracks here, all produced as well as performed by the prodigious Ms. K. The opener, "You're Just a Country Boy", is a pleasing contrast of a sort. Krauss surrounds herself with a piano ballad sound, supplemented by strings, minimal organ washes, and Nashville-style electric guitar. "Simple Love" is similarly driven by a piano groove and drums -- definitely not bluegrass. But Krauss's voice ties it all in with patented richness. "Jacob's Dream" is a more traditional new effort, but "Away Down the River" returns us to a more produced sound -- with even a Fender Rhodes electric piano for plush texture. A million other singers have recoded in such a setting, but hearing Krauss finally give herself over seems less a sell-out than a refreshing change.

The sum total of A Hundred Miles or More is a mixed bag. There is much spot-on singing here, and the instrumentation can hardly be faulted. Dig the traditional bluegrass tune, "Sawing on the Strings", with guest Tony Rice playing a knock-out guitar solo -- it's the kind of thing that makes most Allison Krauss and Union Station records pop from your speakers. The scruffier textures of the Chieftans backing her vocal on "Molly Ban" puts a little burnish on her shine. But, still, you want to cry out to her -- enough with the ethereal thing, Allison. Too much of a good thing is still too much, and there is a point at which each of these tunes -- which were uniquely Allison Krauss-ish in their non-compiled original setting -- adds up to an excessive pile of gorgeousness. When each one of your 20 Grammy Awards is for being exceedingly pleasant, what have you really got? In too many tracks, the pure Krauss, the angelic Krauss, the Grammy-rific Krauss is indulged in her tendency to be a little soft and sweet.

On the cover of A Hundred Miles or More, Krauss is walking on the beach in cowboy boots, a white sweater flowing from her body as her long hair feathers away from her pretty face. On the back of the booklet, she kneels in soft focus on the sand, the sweater pulled away from her bare shoulders and a spreading smile on her face. And the music is exactly like that -- one of those selling-facial-cleanser-photos would have been fine, but two steps a little over the line. Still, she's a singular talent.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.