HOT DISH: Alison Krauss Deserves Radio Airplay

Her List of Awards and Accomplishments Is Second to None

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at

During the past 16 years, Alison Krauss has only had four singles reach the Top 10 of Billboard’s country chart — and none of them were from her own albums.

The first one came in 1994 with “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart,” her recording with the group Shenandoah for their album that had a similar title. The collaboration won them the Country Music Association’s vocal event of the year. The next year brought “When You Say Nothing at All,” a track from Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album that was also named the CMA’s single of the year.

She even hit No. 1 in 1999 with “Buy Me a Rose,” a song she recorded with Kenny Rogers and Billy Dean, but that was from Kenny’s album, She Rides Wild Horses. And her fourth Top 10 single came in 2004 with “Whiskey Lullaby,” her collaboration with Brad Paisley that was featured on his Mud on the Tires CD. “Whiskey Lullaby” won CMA trophies for musical event and video of the year.

The singles charts are determined by radio airplay, but she has never gotten many spins for the songs featured on her albums with her band, Union Station. The shocking fact to me is radio doesn’t play this woman’s music unless she collaborates with a country artist on a major label. Why doesn’t mainstream radio play Alison’s music?

In 2001, she was a major part of the CMA’s album of the year, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Lord knows, though, there was no airplay for Alison’s solo work.

She has received 20 Grammys. That’s more than any other female in history, including Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand. More than half of those Grammys are in categories that have “country” in their descriptions. O Brother was named overall album of the year in 2001, and Alison’s other Grammys are in the bluegrass and folk categories. For years, I’ve accused the music business of treating bluegrass like a stepchild. For instance, when it comes to the CMA or ACM Awards, bluegrass is avoided like the plague. Sort of like radio avoids playing Alison’s music.

You know, I firmly believe if the Dixie Chick problems hadn’t surfaced, bluegrass would be mainstream by now. Those girls played the banjo, fiddle and Dobro with the same pride you see in rock acts that are playing screaming electric guitars. The Dixie Chicks had No. 1 records on country radio. And Natalie Maines’ vocals were so marvelous … but that’s history, and we’re talking about the great Alison Krauss. She’s the one radio doesn’t play.

Alison has received double-platinum awards for 1995’s Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection and 2002’s Live. Four of her other albums are certified gold — Lonely Runs Both Ways, New Favorite, Forget About It and So Long So Wrong. All of this happened without radio play and no hit singles to support her albums.

Looking at Alison’s other highlights, she produced Alan Jackson’s Grammy-nominated album, Like Red on a Rose, in 2006. She performed two nominated songs on the 75th annual Academy Awards show in 2004. Alison performed on the Kennedy Center Honors Tribute to Paul Simon in 2002. In 2001, she produced the Reba McEntire single “Sweet Music Man.” In 2002, she produced Nickel Creek’s This Side (which won a Grammy) and also produced their self-titled CD that was released in 2000. She performed with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra on PBS in 2000. And in 1993, she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. But radio never played her records.

Alison’s other musical collaborations fill a long list of country and rock artists. She has recorded with Dolly Parton, James Taylor, John Waite, Dar Williams, John Michael Montgomery, Ralph Stanley, Tommy Shaw, Michael Johnson, Phish and, most recently, Robert Plant. Oh, and we can’t forget her work with Vince Gill on his “High Lonesome Sound” single. But still no radio play for Alison’s records.

In addition to O Brother, she’s been on lots of other film and TV soundtracks. Those include Mona Lisa Smiles, Crossing Jordan, Where the Red Fern Grows, Cold Mountain, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Prince of Egypt. But no radio play.

The incredible Alison Krauss & Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas has appeared on virtually all major television shows including Austin City Limits, CBS Saturday Morning, CBS Sunday Morning, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

If you ask me, that’s a pretty impressive list of accomplishments. Now, all you smart folks, please advise me as to why this woman’s music is not on mainstream radio. She deserves to be played. She sings and plays like an angel. Amen.

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