Angel Snow is hanging on to this particular text message, at least for the time being. It’s the first of its kind she’s ever gotten — a quick note from one Alison Krauss (yes, the Alison Krauss) saying it’d be all right to share the good news that she’s just recorded a pair of songs Snow had a hand in writing. The plan is for those songs to go on Krauss’s upcoming album, and there’s no reason to think they won’t, except that in the record business these things can change at the very last minute.
For the past four years or so, Snow — a singing, songwriting native of Chickamauga, Georgia — has made her home in Nashville. Nashville has a reputation for favoring makers of big, bright, commercial music, which isn’t exactly her cup of tea. Her music, instead, strikes a delicate balance between artistry and accessibility. And considering that that’s why Krauss herself is beloved, it makes sense that she’d hear a kindred spirit in Snow’s songs — a kindred spirit she could imagine collaborating productively with her own blood kin.
There’s a fortuitous beginning to this story. Snow and Krauss happened to meet at the house of a mutual friend and instantly hit it off. Then Krauss wanted to hear some of her music. “So I have her a CD,” remembers Snow, “and then it was just a couple hours later that she gave me a call and said that she loves these songs and wants me to come by the house and let’s talk about some things.”
‘Now that I’ve found you…’
One topic of conversation was Krauss’ hunch that Snow would make the perfect songwriting partner for her brother, Viktor Krauss, a bass virtuosos frequently seen at the sir of Lyle Lovett or Bill Frisell. Snow was game and so, apparently, was Viktor. Just a couple of days later they co-wrote their first song, the brooding “Lie Awake,” one of the two that Alison took with her into the studio. “That was just sort of the beginning of our collaboration,” says Snow. “And then, 14 songs later, he’s producing my next record and here we are.”
Viktor Krauss is a sophisticated instrumental composer with jazz, blues, bluegrass, and ambient chops in his arsenal, and Snow is a folkie with a subtly sensual, poetic bent who shares his love of ambiance. “It’s still me,” she reflects, “but it’s just [blended] with his atmospheric spun on guitar and bass. He was looking for a lyricist. …It was this perfect collaboration. It’s molded my songwriting in a different way. I’m learning to simplify the lyrics.
Snow estimates her new album — written with and produced by Krauss — is about 75 percent done. “It’s all very time consuming, but it’s been so worth it,” she says, “and I prefer to do it at my own pace. There’s no rushing involved.” And it would be hard to rush even if she wanted to, as in demand as Krauss is as a sideman.
This isn’t snow’s first experience making an album. She recorded and independently released Fortune Tellers — a promising, stripped-down, 10-song indie roots set — during her first year in Nashville. But She’d had several rather nomadic years to prep her material in those pre-Krauss, solo writing days.
Nashville via Philly
Snow overheard her older brothers play their music as a kid in Chickamauga — one leaning toward the darker side of rock, from the Cure to Metallica, and the other toward emotional songwriters, like Tori Amos and the Indigo Girls. She picked up a guitar in her mid-teens and left town as soon as high school was over.
She explains, “It was just a really great place to grow up — just a typical small-town kind of life. But I was so ready to get out of there.” After that, shed be in Chattanooga part of the time, earning a psychology degree, then she’d head across the country and live in a tent in Yellowstone or Yosemite for months, working as a server and writing songs on the side.
She moved in with friends in Philadelphia on a lark, tried out a few open mice and decided it wasn’t her scene. “Philadelphia was…” she pauses before continuing. “It’s a tough city if you’re trying to pursue an Americana-folk kind of thing. So then I decided that Nashville would probably be a better fit for me.”
And so it has. The introduction to the Krausses may have taken a few years, but Snow found other like-minded musicians right away and commerced playing small listening rooms and coffeehouses in town and in nearby states. On one trip to Decatur, she won the Bi-Annual Songwriter’s Open Mic Shootout at Eddie’s Attic, a distinction shared by John Mayer and Jennifer Nettles.
That’s not to say that Snow’s on the Sugarland career pay, per se. But with the right partners, she and her songs are bound to get a wider hearing. She and Viktor Krauss not only write together, but also perform as a due as often as they can. “We’re just trying to make beautiful songs,” she says, “and hopefully move a few people out of their seats.”