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With Krauss, mournful never sounded so good

Alison Krauss is not just bluegrass royalty. She's almost a household name after being on television so much this year. She performed at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Grammys, and recently at the Country Music Association Awards, where she won twice for her duet with Brad Paisley on ''Whiskey Lullaby," which was also a radio hit.

With the new CD ''Lonely Runs Both Ways," Krauss and her band, Union Station, continue to take the so-called high, lonesome sound of bluegrass and turn it into gold -- in more ways than one. The disc, which comes out Tuesday, will ship gold -- 500,000 copies -- and could sell in the millions, judging from their concert album, ''Live" (in 2002), which has sold more than 2 million.

''The timing couldn't be better for Alison. Her visibility is higher than ever," says Brad Paul, a vice president with Cambridge-based Rounder Records, which has put out Krauss's albums for almost 20 years since she arrived as a 14-year-old fiddle prodigy from Champaign, Ill.

The new CD extends her love of reflective, mournful songs that no one seems to sing as poignantly as she does. ''I did find enough sad songs for the album," Krauss says, laughing, because she knows that is her reputation.

The album starts off with the showstoppingly wistful ''Gravity," about how ''the years roll on by . . . and the road never ends." And it moves through scintillating treatments of Mindy Smith's ''If I Didn't Know Any Better," Gillian Welch and David Rawlings's ''Wouldn't Be So Bad," and the aching ''Doesn't Have to Be This Way."

The album's first single, "Restless," is being pitched to radio and is already catching on in some markets, but Krauss is typically self-effacing about whether it will become a hit.

''We're not making dance music," she says. ''Sometimes I can't believe we've gotten played on the radio at all, but I've got no complaints."

The new album also boasts several tracks sung by Union Station member Dan Tyminski, who served as the singing voice of actor George Clooney in the film ''O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Tyminski balances some of Krauss's tristesse -- and the pairing is what helps make Union Station so appealing. The attractive lineup of cover songs includes bluegrass god Del McCoury's ''Rain Please Go Away" and Woody Guthrie's ''Pastures of Plenty."

There's even a rare tune co-written by Krauss that has a deceptive title. ''This Sad Song," which she wrote way back at age 18, is actually pretty jaunty.

''We wrote it as a joke for the guitar player in the band back then," she says. ''I'm not a good writer. Anything I've had a writing involvement in has been silly."

Fair enough, but the ever-humble Krauss sure can sing.

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