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Alison Krauss & Union Station – Paper Airplane

Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplane

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING digressed into the mainstream with Robert Plant, Alison Krauss returns to her country and blue grass roots for her reunion with Union Station, entitled Paper Airplane.

An intimate record that reflects her state of mind, as well as the current state of America, it’s a typically assured and quietly mesmerising listen, shot through with wonderful touches of banjo, dobro and steel guitar – not to mention the odd vocal from Jerry Douglas.

It is, of course, distinctly bluegrass and country in origin and may struggle to reach beyond that market. But if ever you were curious about why this medium is so popular, then Krauss provides plenty of evidence.

Her vocals are achingly tender, her lyrics thoughtful and often extremely resonant… while her backing group, Union Station, add instrumental excellence.

Paper Airplane gets off to a particularly satisfying start and doesn’t really put a foot wrong thereafter. The title track is as intimate as they come… a tender acoustic guitar slowly ushering in a fragile set of vocals and a sense of resolve and purpose befitting the album’s composition (“I’ve put it all behind me/there’s nothing I can do”/”every silver lining always has a cloud”). The chorus, though, is truly disarming.

It’s followed by Dustbowl Children, an exceptional bluegrass rocker that combines some sparkling banjo with a terrific vocal from Dan Tyminski. If you digged the Coen brothers’ Soggy Bottom Boys’ material, you’re sure to love this and all of its Depression era themes.

But it’s a measure of Krauss’ confidence and assuredness that just two songs in, she’s happy to let one of her band-mates take centre-stage. It feels like a family affair.

Krauss returns to divine effect on Lie Awake, which combines steel pan and violin to beguiling effect, and on My Love Follows You Where You Go, which picks up the tempo while remaining bittersweet and drawing, once again, on banjo. It’s a deliciously brisk offering that gives rise to a fantastic guitar solo, too.

The sorrowful guitar that ushers in Dimming Of The Day ensures that you’re hooked from the beginning, even as Krauss begins reflecting on the old house falling down around her ears, while Miles To Go features a fine duet with Douglas over the chorus and more thought-provoking lyrics.

In between, Outside Looking In marks the return of Tyminski for another banjo-fuelled barn-dance spree and then Sinking Stone marks a return of the heartbreak approach, with Krauss at her most heart-on-sleeve.

The album then draws to a close with Bonita And Bill Butler, which combines male vocals, banjo and violin to rousing effect, and the dusky My Opening Farewell, which ends things on a truly satisfying note… with Krauss again delivering a heartbreaking mix of melancholy tempered by a strange optimism and strength.

Krauss has already won 26 Grammys in a career that has spanned a quarter of a century, despite being only 39. You can pretty much place a safe bet that this album will help her win a clutch more!

Watch the video for Paper Airplanes:

Download picks: Dustbowl Children, Lie Awake, My Love Follows You Where You Go, Outside Looking In, My Opening Farewell

Track listing:

  1. Paper Airplane
  2. Dustbowl Children
  3. Lie Awake
  4. Lay My Burden Down
  5. My Love Follows You Where You Go
  6. Dimming Of The Day
  7. Outside Looking In
  8. Miles To Go
  9. Sinking Stone
  10. Bonita And Bill Butler
  11. My Opening Farewell

  1. Epic album… she is peerless. Surely this rates 5 out of 5?

    Kate    Apr 12    #