Alison Brown

Alison Brown (born August 7, 1962) is an American banjo player, guitarist, composer, and producer. She has won and has been nominated for several Grammy awards and is often compared to another banjo prodigy, Béla Fleck, for her unique style of playing. In her music, she blends jazz, bluegrass, rock, blues as well as other styles of music.[1]

Alison Brown
Background information
Born (1962-08-07) August 7, 1962 (age 59)
OriginHartford, Connecticut, United States
GenresBluegrass, Americana, jazz
Occupation(s)Songwriter, musician, Record Producer
InstrumentsBanjo, guitar
Years active1978–present
LabelsVanguard Records, Compass Records, Ridge Runner Records

Early lifeEdit

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Brown learned to play guitar at eight and banjo at ten. When she was twelve, she met fiddler Stuart Duncan. In the summer of 1978, Brown traveled across the country with Duncan and his father, playing at festivals and contests. She won first place at the Canadian National Banjo Championship, which helped her land a one-night gig at the Grand Ole Opry. [2]


She is married to bass player Garry West. She has a daughter, Hannah West, and a son, Brendan West.

Harvard University and Northern LightsEdit

In 1980, Brown went to Harvard University, where she studied history and literature. After graduating from Harvard, she earned an MBA from UCLA.

In 1982, while still at Harvard, Brown helped to reunite the Northern Lights band after a 5-year hiatus, she became a band member until 1984, when she moved back to California. Brown worked for two years with Smith Barney in San Francisco, and then took a break to pursue her music interests.[3]

Union Station and other collaborationsEdit

In 1987, Alison Krauss asked Brown to join her band, Union Station. Brown spent three years with Krauss. In 1990, she moved to Tennessee, and was named International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year in 1991. The 1990 album I've Got That Old Feeling, which Brown played banjo on, won a Grammy award.[4]

In 1992, Brown became the band leader for Michelle Shocked. This experience led Brown to merge bluegrass with jazz and folk idioms, in a manner similar to those of Béla Fleck and David Grisman.

Compass RecordsEdit

In the early 1990s, Brown and her husband, bass player Garry West, started their own record label, Small World Music. This company eventually led to the launch of Compass Records in 1995, an internationally recognized label, which has such artists as Victor Wooten, Colin Hay, Catie Curtis, Lúnasa, Martin Hayes, Jeff Coffin, Russ Barenberg, Darol Anger and others.

Grammy awardsEdit

In 2001, in collaboration with Béla Fleck, Brown won the Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance for her song "Leaving Cottondale" from her album Fair Weather. She participated in Alison Krauss's Grammy-winning album I've Got That Old Feeling, and received a Grammy nomination for her own recording, Simple Pleasures (1990).

Alison Brown and Quartet todayEdit

Stolen Moments (2005), in Brown's estimation, is her most musically successful record to date. "For the first time, I feel like I've created a true hybrid sound that suggests its influences – bluegrass, jazz, celtic music – but when taken as a whole isn't any one of these things." – Brown's words about the album on the group's official webpage. In 2007, Brown was honored as one of Irish America magazine's Stars of the South. Her last album, The Company You Keep (2009) follows this trend of mixing different acoustic genres resulting in fresh-sounding new hybrids.

Brown continues touring with her quartet internationally. As a famous Harvard University alumna, she was invited to play at the inauguration of Harvard's president Drew Faust.[1][5] in 2007.

Record producerEdit

She has also cultivated an impressive repertoire as a record producer, helming projects for artists like Dale Ann Bradley, Peter Rowan, Quiles & Cloud, and the Grammy-nominated album from Claire Lynch, NORTH BY SOUTH.


Ridge Runner RecordsEdit

Vanguard RecordsEdit

Compass RecordsEdit


External linksEdit