Alison Brown and ‘Leaving Cottondale’

        When folks hear the name Alison many of them tend to think of Alison Krauss, but there is another music Alison you need to know about.  Her name is Alison Brown.  Ms. Krauss knows her well, as they have toured together in the past.

        Alison Brown has a cool resume.  She did her undergraduate work at Harvard, and then earned an MBA at UCLA.  After that she was a Wall Street investment banker.  I guess maybe that became too tame a life for her, so she went out on tour with Alison Krauss.  She was the first female IBMA banjo player of the year.  She won a Grammy in 2001 for ‘Leaving Cottondale.’  For the folks who say bluegrass crowd isn’t sophisticated, I only ask they re-read this post and then send their rebuttal in the comments.

        Nowadays she and her husband Gary West own Compass Records in Nashville, Tennessee.  They produced Dale Ann Bradley’s IBMA award-winning CD, one of my personal favorites in the year 2009.  The lady can pick bluegrass banjo as well as any man alive but is equally at home with jazz, swing, or pop tunes.  Her husband is a fine bass player and businessman.  These people know music.  

        Alison Brown will be at the Don Gibson theatre in Shelby N.C., January 9th, 2010.  My favorite artists are always the ones who believe in their work and in what they hope to say.  They don’t look for corporate to create an image for them.  Ms. Brown is that kind of performer.  Her show will appeal to a broad demographic spectrum.  It will be attended by everyone from the local hot pickers to young mothers who want to see a lady colleague who can do it all, to old docs who appreciate and love fine acoustic music. 

        I have become enthralled with this Gibson theater.  It’s a cozy 400 seat venue with great acoustics and is small enough to take in the show in detail without one of those widescreen monitors.  It’s just the kind of hang-out for a cat who has spent his life marching to a different drummer, even though we don’t have one in bluegrass.  (Alison might; I am not sure, and if she does it is okay by me.)  If promoters take a chance on people who refuse to settle for cookie cutter art I plan to support them.

         At times patients and readers have asked how I’ve maintained my enthusiasm for my work after so many years in the trenches.  The answer ain’t blowing in the wind, but can be found in the artistry of folks like Alison Brown or Darin and Brooke Aldridge who will follow her at the Gibson on Jan 22. 

        If y’all want to know what makes Doc tick, take in these shows.  It would be a good start to understand an old doctor who is so simple he’s complicated, or a complex young woman like Alison Brown who creates art of simple beauty.  I do not know her well, but my guess is in spite the differences in our ages and day jobs we have much in common.  Like me, I think Alison Brown is driven by motives that involve more important concepts than simple commercialism. 

        I know this.  If anyone shows up within driving distance of Harvey County and they aim to make my life better via their creative efforts, I’m gonna get in the car and go.  I am called to do my day job, and I persevere.  However, the doc gig involves a lot of pain and suffering for folks, and you often find yourself tangled up in impossible circumstances.  Through art, I believe we can see a few glimpses of dignity as we trudge along, and I intend to take in all I can.

        Y’all go see Alison Brown.  You won’t regret it.

        Check out her link:

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: favorite known bands, The Monday Morning Post, Writing

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10 Comments on “Alison Brown and ‘Leaving Cottondale’”

  1. Carmen Says:

    I just spent a few minutes catching up on your recent blogs…a bout with diverticulitis had me flat on my back for longer than I would have cared. But now I have caught up, and time to say Thank You for posting your thoughts on bluegrass, the doc gig, and life in general. I’m a little familiar with this Alison’s work, but I think I’ll go looking for more of her music. We have the midwest SPBGMA award show here in my town in a few days, you should plan to attend that someday in your travels, a real midwest family reunion of the bluegrass folks. A great way to start the year.

    • drtombibey Says:


      I sure hate the terrible ‘tickle-itis’ got a hold of you. The old folks say watch out for ‘maters.’ I don’t think science has proven that, but I still find myself saying it, ’cause I beleive in the old people. (I am one)

      For sure when we hit the Midwest me and the wife will be dependent on the folks who know the local landscape for guidance. I know every inch of my home turf, but little else in the world. We want to see some of it before we’re too old to go.

      But when the time comes we can’t get out and travel, we’ll just play at home and be content ’cause we got to do it all.

      Dr. B

  2. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Sorry to miss seeing Alison, who’s as good as they get, particularly with her jazz group. Should be a great show. Irene and I will be at the Darin and Brooke show, and look for my review of their new CD later in the week.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Alison is a player, no doubt. I used to play a little banjo. If I could play like her, I don’t reckon I’d a wound up as a doctor.

      When you review the Darin and Brooke CD let me know and I’ll post a link. I’ve heard it, and believe they are going to the top with this project.

      Dr. B

  3. TC Conner Says:

    I’ve loved bluegrass music all my life. Bornt and raised in the Bluegrass State might’ve had a lot to do with that. I’ve also picked a guitar for most of my life, but not until recently did I ever attempt to play bluegrass music. Odd when you think about it. Anyway, I know of both Alison’s and their music, more so for Ms. Krauss (who I saw with Robert Plant last summer). Age finds me with less gumption to get out, and I’m a statistic of the economic downturn which has left me quite financially stressed so I’m not able to afford tickets to many bluegrass venues.

    Bluegrass music lives in me and is as much a part of who I am as that muscle located in the center of my chest.

    (And thanks for stoppin by my blog Dr. B, come again!)

  4. drtombibey Says:


    You might be far away but I got a feeling you’ll be there in spirit. Keep on picking brother; better times are coming.

    Dr. B

  5. Val Says:

    I wish I could see/hear Alison Play. Perhaps one day when I leave this rock in the middle of the sea, I’ll be able to do just that. This was a wonderful post Dr. B, especially after my weird day in the wilds of the publishing world. Thank you for making me smile.

  6. drtombibey Says:


    If Alison Brown ever has a gig up that way go see her and take all your friends and neighbors too. She’s a keeper.

    Yeah, I understand. The doc job is hard, the music gig is more difficult, and the Lit world is an impossible, unpredictable journey. Still we must press on ’cause our writer voice inside won’t let us stop.

    Don’t let ’em get ‘ya down, kid.

    Dr. B

  7. Wow – she does sound like an inspiring young woman! Impressive resume, indeed, but I love the way she’s changed direction so completely. It’s always good to know that even when you’re all “grown-up” you can change what you want to do in your life!

    • drtombibey Says:


      I believe if next year Alison decided she was gonna be a doctor she’d end up being a good one. We all gotta keep growing.

      Dr. B

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