Alison Krauss, "Windy City" (Capitol)
When it comes to selecting songs, Alison Krauss' aim is true. "Windy City" is classic country, with most of the tunes older than their 45-year-old singer. Krauss embraces them as her own, expanding her palette and making the traditional sound contemporary.
Krauss draws on familiar and obscure material previously performed by artists such as Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and Brenda Lee, and the arrangements are as wide-ranging as the songs' sources. There's weepy pedal steel, Tex-Mex guitar, a burst of Dixieland horns, tuba and a string orchestra — violins, not fiddles. Members of Krauss' band Union Station also contribute.
Out front is her angelic soprano, which rises to the occasion throughout, and not just when she climbs the scale with a goose-bumps-inducing crescendo on the Osborne Brothers' "It's Goodbye and So Long to You."
The native of Decatur, Illinois, takes her sound upstate and uptown when she sings about Chicago on the title cut, another Osborne Brothers song. Other highlights include Lee's "All Alone Am I" and "Dream of Me," which was co-written by the album's producer, Buddy Cannon, in 1980.
Even the length of the set is classic country — 10 songs, 35 minutes. That's the only quibble with "Windy City": It's too short.