Ten bluegrass albums that will change your world

Bluegrass might be the punk version of country.
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ALISON KRAUSS & UNION STATION – Every Time You Say Goodbye – 1992

Alison Krauss is the most important figure in bluegrass music in the early 21st century. Her extraordinary popularity, both as a soloist and with her band Union Station, has elevated bluegrass in ways not seen since the days of Bill Monroe. She has branched out in all directions. Her popular tours with Robert Plant have introduced elements of bluegrass into the ears of traditional rock & roll fans.

Krauss is an excellent fiddle player, but she is known primarily as having one of the finest voices in the history of bluegrass. Like Del McCoury, she dominated the IBMA’s in the early ‘90s. She was a crucial part of the O Brother… soundtrack and continued to put out essential albums into the new millennium.

Most fans would suggest beginning with her first-rate Live album from 2003 or the studio album she released two years earlier, New Favorite. There is a very good reason for those suggestions. They feature the strongest version of Union Station, with Dan Tyminski on guitar and vocals, and Jerry Douglas on dobro.

But I am going back further, with the original Union Station featuring Tim Stafford on guitar. Stafford does not provide the same presence as Tymanski, but as a bluegrass album, this early release (just the second by the full band) places Krauss’s vocals in a truer light. I wouldn’t think of arguing that this is somehow better than Krauss’s later explorations with other crossover genres.

I just know when I’m in the mood for bluegrass on a Sunday morning, I’m listening to the spry “Who Could Blame You” or the simple beauty of “Heartstrings” more often than some of the later albums. Krauss never abandoned bluegrass, but as time went on, more of that traditional sound was carried by Tymanski, as Krauss tried out other things. Every Time… is a full-on bluegrass album, with highlights of gospel and traditional country.