Rounder Records – 2004 – 47 minutes

Grammy award winner Alison Krauss and her band Union Station return with their new studio album, serving up their patented blend of bittersweet bluegrass. 'Lonely Runs Both Ways' features classics by such greats as Woody Guthrie and Del McCoury as well as original songs. The results are melodic, but gloomy.

Heartbreak permeates the collection. From the haunting tones of 'Gravity' to the sorrowful 'Wouldn't Be So Bad', Krauss and Union Station's bluegrass is both heartfelt and poignant. Even the up-tempo tracks such as 'Restless' and McCoury's 'Rain Please Go Away' are deeply emotive.

Krauss' voice, a combination of Sarah McLachlan and echoes of Dolly Parton, is simply angelic. Having won more Grammys (17) than any other female, her position as the first lady of bluegrass looks assured. Here, her vocals bring out the sentiment of the songs wonderfully, sounding sad and hopeful at the same time.

A good move was to have Krauss share the singing with her bandmates, with Dan Tyminski and Ron Block both sounding good on lead vocal - Tyminski bringing out the determination and feeling of Guthrie's 'Pastures of Plenty' nicely.

The trouble is that the bittersweet nature of the songs gets slightly tedious. There's no light-hearted tune to liven your spirits, which you'll need after listening to this. Still, there's no mistaking that Krauss et al's bitter is very sweet to listen to.

Katie Moten

Tracklisting: Gravity – Restless – Rain Please Go Away – Goodbye is All We Have – Unionhouse Branch – Wouldn't Be So Bad – Pastures of Plenty – Crazy As Me – Borderline – Poor Old Heart – This Sad Song – Doesn't Have to Be This Way – I Don't Have to Live This Way – If I Didn't Know Any Better – A Living Prayer