HOT DISH: A Conversation With Alison Krauss

Believe It or Not, She's One of the Funniest People on Earth

(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 hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Anyone who has been blessed to hear Alison Krauss sing or watch her perform in concert will agree that she is one of the most talented singers and instrumentalists on this or any other continent. Her vocals approach the sound of angels, and her fiddling is head and shoulders above the best on any stage. The girl does what she does with so much ease, people forget she actually works very hard at her task. And like the rest us, Alison gets tired from time to time.

You’ll hear people say, “She’s so shy.” Or, “She doesn’t say much.” Or someone will rush up in her face, and as she steps back, the person in hot pursuit will chat and chat and chat. Musicians are human just like the fans. No two people have the same way to say hello. Overzealous fans can turn off their favorite artists.

Let me tell you something about my friend, Alison Krauss. She is one of the funniest people on earth. Not necessarily meaning to, but Alison can always make me laugh. For instance, when she called me recently at 8 a.m., I said, “You’ve played Telluride 12 times?” She answered, “I have?!” She was agreeing with me but asking at the same time. That made me laugh. “I read it someplace,” I said, and both of us laughed even more.

The day she called, she’d eaten an energy bar for breakfast.

“Do you think that’s awful, Hazel?” she asked.

“Lord, no,” I answered. “No dishes to wash and no dishwasher to empty.”

Alison hadn’t thought of that. Of course, being older than Alison by decades, I do put much importance on such things.

She also admitted to once eating a corn dog for breakfast.

“Surely not,” I said.

“Once when the Cox family were staying at the house, they had a big package of corn dogs, and I pulled one out and gnawed down,” she explained.

“Oh, my,” was all I could say.

She and her band, Union Station, have been in and out of the recording studio since July. “We have had so much fun,” she told me. The day she called me, she was heading to the studio at 10:30 a.m. to make more music. She hasn’t released an Alison Krauss & Union Station album in six years, so this will be a treat.

In her spare time, she likes to watch scary videos on the Internet. “Ghost stories,” she said. She also likes watching history programs on TV, and she loves to listen to Al Green.

“My current favorite female country singer is Lee Ann Womack,” she volunteered. “She is just amazing. She has such personality and character, and she is so feminine. She doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. She is the sexiest female singer in country music, I think.” (This statement by Alison will no doubt give Lee Ann the right to think she’s the real Yellow Rose of Texas!)

When I asked who her favorite male singer was, Alison simply said, “Merle.” No Merle Haggard. No Hag. Just a soft “Merle.”

I asked her if she hears from Robert Plant, and she said she does — and that he’s coming back to Nashville. “He’s recording with Buddy Miller,” she said. Buddy is the great Americana singer, songwriter and instrumentalist who records with his wife, Julie, and often works with Emmylou Harris. Buddy was the guitar player for the Raising Sand tour Alison did with Plant.

I don’t recall how I brought up Emmylou, except to stammer how much I love and respect her. I do remember verbatim what Alison said: “Emmylou knows what she’s doing when she walks out onstage with her guitar.” Alison said a mouthful there.

Time flies. It’s been 10 years since the monster hit film O Brother, Where Art Thou? introduced the universe to T Bone Burnett, Ralph Stanley, the Whites, the Cox Family, the Fairfield Four, the Peasall Sisters and, of course, Alison. Seeing the movie and hearing the songs brought a whole new meaning to acoustic music and those who play it, including Union Station members Jerry Douglas, Ron Block, Dan Tyminski and Barry Bales.

Some 82 people were on the road during her most recent tour with Union Station. Bales, the band’s bass player, joked with Alison about having had enough of the outfits she wears on tour. She said he told her, “Fans have been photographed with you, attended another concert and brought the photo back with them for you to sign — and you’re wearing the same clothes.”

Alison has missed the band. She’s touring big time this summer to promote her new album. And she will be a part of Kenny Rogers‘ big 50th anniversary special that’s being taped in April. Lionel Richie, Wynonna, the Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton and a whole bevy of other major stars will be there, too.

By the way, Alison is set to perform with Heart in Seattle in March.

Colt in the Kitchen
I didn’t know Colt Ford from … well, Jimmy Martin, had Jimmy still been alive. Wearing jeans, black cowboy hat, dark glasses and a denim shirt, the first words that came out of Colt’s mouth were, “Yes, ma’am.”

It takes one to know one, I guess, and I knew right off the bat that Colt was in my kitchen to eat … because he ain’t the dining kind. Colt’s folks reside between Nashville, where I live, and Athens, Ga., where he lives. He is country, and he is a rising country star who used to be a real good golfer until he decided to take on singing full time. Shoot, he grew up listening to country music and knows country music is the best. You can see his video, “No Trash in My Trailer,” on CMT.com. I laughed my head off when I recognized John Michael Montgomery in it.

More News
The Americana Music Association’s showcase at this year’s South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, will feature Jim Lauderdale, Elizabeth Cook and Hayes Carll. Also appearing on the March 18 bill are the Court Yard Hounds (featuring sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, who are two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks).

Lady Antebellum is still tearing up the roads and taking over the charts. They went No. 1 the first week out with their new album, Need You Now, and that’s not the end of the story. They’ve gone No. 1 for a second week and have so far sold 689,000 copies of the new album. They’ll be appearing on Today on March 3.

I hear the mighty Merle Haggard and his scout, Kris Kristofferson, both members of the hallowed Country Music Hall of Fame, have shows coming up this week in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Illinois. If you love some of the finest songs of the 20th century performed by the people who wrote them, put your money down and find a seat near the front when these two hit your town.

By special request, here’s one of Hazel’s most popular Hot Dish recipes: World’s Best Banana Pudding.