Alison Krauss (born July 23, 1971) is an American bluegrass-country singer 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 eleven 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 Grammy-winning 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. During her career she has won 27 Grammy Awards, making her the most awarded female artist (and the second most awarded artist overall, tied with Quincy Jones) in Grammy history.
Alison Krauss was born in Decatur, Illinois to parents who were originally from Columbus, Mississippi. Krauss was raised in Champaign, Illinois. She began studying classical violin at five years of age but soon switched to bluegrass. Krauss said she first became involved with music because "[my] mother tried to find interesting things for me to do" and "wanted to get me involved in music, in addition to art and sports." At age eight she started entering local talent contests, and at ten she had her own band. At 13 she won the Walnut Valley Festival Fiddle Championship, and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America named her the Most Promising Fiddler in the Midwest. Krauss first met Dan Tyminski around 1984 at a festival held by the Society. Every current member of her band, Union Station, first met her at these festivals.
Krauss made her recording debut in 1985 on the independent album, Different Strokes, featuring her brother Viktor, Swamp Weiss, and Jim Hoiles. From the age of 12 she performed with bassist and songwriter John Pennell in a band called "Silver Rail". Pennell later formed Union Station, and Krauss joined at his invitation, replacing their previous fiddler Andrea Zonn. Pennell remains one of her favorite songwriters and wrote some of her early work including the popular "Every Time You Say Goodbye." Later that year she signed to Rounder Records, and in 1987, at 16, she released her debut album Too Late to Cry. with Union Station as her backup band.
Krauss has made multiple guest appearances on other records with lead vocals, harmony vocals, or fiddle playing. In 1993 she recorded vocals for the Phish song "If I Could" in Los Angeles. In 1997 she contributed harmony vocals in both English and Irish to Irish traditional band Altan's Runaway Sunday album. She has contributed to numerous motion picture soundtracks, most notably the soundtrack O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000. She and co-vocalist Dan Tyminski contributed multiple tracks to the soundtrack, including "I'll Fly Away" (with Gillian Welch), "Down to the River to Pray", and "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow."
In the film, Tyminski's vocals on "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" became the singing voice of George Clooney. The soundtrack sold over seven million copies and won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2002. The unexpected success of the album has been partially credited, as was Krauss herself, with bringing a new interest in bluegrass to the United States. She has said, however, that she believes Americans already liked bluegrass and other less-heard musical genres, and that the film merely provided easy exposure to the music. She did not appear in the movie, at her own request, as she was nine months pregnant during its filming.
In 2007, Krauss released the anthology A Hundred Miles Or More: A Collection which was a collection of soundtrack work, duets with artists such as John Waite, James Taylor, Brad Paisley and esteemed fiddle player Natalie MacMaster, and newer tracks. The album was very commercially successful, but was received with a lukewarm reception from critics. One of the tracks, "Missing You", a duet with Waite (and a cover of his hit single from 1984), was similarly received as a single. On August 11, television network Great American Country aired a one-hour special, "Alison Krauss: A Hundred Miles or More" based on the album and featured many of the album's duets and solo performances.
Other soundtracks for which Krauss has performed include Twister, The Prince of Egypt, Eight Crazy Nights, Mona Lisa Smile, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Alias, Bambi II and Cold Mountain. She also contributed the song "Jubilee" to the 2004 documentary Paper Clips. The Cold Mountain songs "The Scarlet Tide" by T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello, and "You Will Be My Ain True Love", by herself and Sting were nominated for an Academy Award, and she performed both songs at the 76th Academy Awards, the first one with Costello and Burnett and the other with Sting. She also worked as a producer for Nickel Creek on their debut self-titled album in 2000 and the follow-up This Side in 2002, which won Krauss her first Grammy as a music producer.