So Long So Wrong

Alison Krauss And Union Station

Rounder, 1997

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Alison Krauss has been known in bluegrass and country music since she was sixteen years old.  But in 1997 with So Long, So Wrong, she turned a corner with her musical approach and came into her own. All of her previous releases had been pretty traditional. By 1997, it had been five years since she had done an album with her backing band Union Station, a solid group of musicians consisting of Ron Block on banjo, Barry Bales on bass, Tim Stafford on the guitar (replaced by Dan Tyminski on So Long So Wrong), and Adam Steffey on mandolin. The 1992 release Everytime You Say Goodbye was intensely traditional bluegrass and won the 1993 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. Following that, Krauss took a detour to join up with the Cox Family for a bluegrass gospel album in 1994. By 1997, the style had changed dramatically, with several melodies that could be considered slow, haunting or melancholy and certainly progressive, interspersed by tracks of solid bluegrass rhythms supplied by Tyminski, Block, and Steffey.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This feeling is apparent from the very first track, “So Long, So Wrong,” with a fade-in of a fiddle drone note, female “ahhs,” and some other instrumentation building to a crescendo that gives way to the first flat-picked notes on a dreadnought guitar. It is one of Krauss’ few upbeat song leads on the album. Other songs that Krauss takes the lead vocal on for the album are the very slow "I Can Let Go Now,” written by Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers, "It Doesn't Matter," and a great rendition of a tune originally tracked by Patty Loveless, "Looking In The Eyes Of Love." There’s also the moderately slow "Deeper Than Crying," "Happiness" (written again by Michael McDonald but also co-written with Krauss’ brother Viktor) and the exquisitely produced and slightly faster "Find My Way Back To My Heart."

All that is to say that while the songs when Krauss takes the lead vocal are good, they are mostly downbeat, slow tunes. The real gems are the true bluegrass songs put in place by the backing group. Adam Steffey turns in an insanely catchy track with "No Place To Hide," while Tyminski shines on “The Road Is A Lover” and the traditional tune "I'll Remember You Love In My Prayers." Ron Block gives two original tracks with “Pain Of A Troubled Life” and the Krauss-led gospel track “There Is A Reason” (also slow), which is absolutely divine. The group also performs an incredibly serious, virtuosic take on “Little Liza Jane” that is 1990s bluegrass at its finest.

Somehow, the alternating of slow songs from Krauss, and the upbeat songs from the band forms a powerful mix of music that is enduring. This album arguably holds together as a cohesive collection far better than anything that Krauss has put out between its release and this writing. It is no wonder the album produced three Grammy awards in 1998 and introduced a lot of people to bluegrass who had never considered it before.

Rating: A-

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