Sad songs, migraines don't get Alison Krauss down

DAVE VEITCH

, Last Updated: 10:03 PM ET

Alison Krauss' publicist calls to say our scheduled interview will need to be delayed.

Apparently, the much-acclaimed singer-fiddler has a migraine and she won't be doing anything today. Except suffering, of course.

"I get the kind (of migraine) that you just want to put your head down all the time -- but I don't throw up. I'm really grateful for that," Krauss tells the Sun the following day.

"I had them every day for over a year a few years back. It really was a drag."

Sounds like the worst year of your life ...

"Pretty much. It was no fun."

So, yes, Alison Krauss knows pain. Of course, you might jump to that conclusion yourself after listening to her latest CD, Forget About It, released earlier this month.

This 11-track collection maintains a quiet, plaintive mood throughout as this 28-year-old native of Champaign, Ill., sings about emotional chasms separating formerly loving lovers, humbling neediness, crippling loneliness and the lure of infidelity.

In many ways, Forget About It, is reminiscent of Interiors, Rosanne Cash's 1990 blood-letting chronicle of her disintegrating marriage to Rodney Crowell.

Even though Krauss doesn't actually have a hand in writing any of the new songs, you still get the impression her heart is aching. Real bad. That impression, though, would be wrong.

"Actually, things are going great," she says with genuine cheerfulness.

"I've just always been drawn to the sadder ones and not because I want a sad song. It just seems like they're more believable to me ... But I can definitely relate to those tunes and I always say, if you can relate to them, you probably should do them."

For instance, life on the road with her all-male Union Station band can be a lonely experience, she points out.

"I'm the only girl, so whenever I get around a girl, I go: 'Oh, talk to me, please! Please, sit next to me. Talk to me about something!' You can get lonely, but everybody is awfully nice."

Indeed, accolades have followed the onetime child fiddling prodigy since she first picked up the instrument at age five.

By 12, she was named most promising fiddler in the U.S. Midwest by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America; by 14, she inked a recording contract with Rounder Records, which remains her home.

"They've been very loyal to me and from pretty much right away, we got to make records like we wanted to. That means so much," she explains.

Countless more awards, including a Grammy, ensued. Then mainstream success came a-knockin' with her 1995 best-of, Now That I've Found You: A Collection, which went to No. 2 on the country charts, top-10 on the pop charts and sold more than a million copies.

By this point, Krauss was blending bluegrass with country, folk, gospel and pop, prompting some bluegrass purists to leap off her bandwagon.

"They think we're a sellout because we've made other kinds of records and I think: Boy, if we were to sell out, this is not the kind of record we would make. You know what I mean?" Krauss says.

"We've heard for years we're too country, or too folky, or too whatever for bluegrass and we're too bluegrass for country. I like that because that means maybe we're doing something our own way. That, to me, is a lot more satisfying than having super success in either (genre)."

Forget About It will continue to confound those who need to compartmentalize music and could be a hard sell at radio and retail. The record has a laid-back, confessional tone you'd expect from prime-period James Taylor or Jackson Browne, though exceptional fiddle and pedal steel keeps it rooted in country.

Former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald pens a few of the new songs, while one of the disc's highlights is a cover of It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference, a bittersweet ballad from Todd Rundgren's 1972 pop masterpiece Something/Anything?

"When I told people that I had done a Todd song, and that was the one, I was surprised how many people went: 'Ooh, this is a good one,' " says Krauss, who turns out to be an aficionado of '70s rock music.

"I mean, I love it. I like good-time music. I love to rock out and crank it up real loud," she says somewhat surprisingly. "I listen to the rock singers back then and compare them to what's considered rock singing now and it was still singing back then. Yeah, it was loud, it was hard and it was nasty, but it was great."

Like Paul Rodgers, Robert Plant and Lou Gramm? "Yeah, that's exactly who I'm talking about. That kind of singing, I just can't get enough of it."

Not that she'd try that sort of thing herself.

"I don't think I could pull it off," she says, laughing. "In a fantasy, I could."

But who needs a fantasy when you've been been making records for half of your life and are now in the enviable position of being both critically adored and commercially successful. Krauss says she has just one regret.

"I left high school early to go to college and I wish I had stayed in high school the whole time.... But at the time, nobody could have convinced me. That whole (high school) era of being so stupid was so fun."

She chuckles mischievously.

"But I think I made up for it later."


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