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Album review: Alison Krauss & Union Station's 'Paper Airplane'* (Updated)

Krauss Alison Krauss may have figured she was tempting fate to try a second time to capture the kind of magic she and Robert Plant bottled with their transcendent “Raising Sand” album, or perhaps she simply felt the prepossessing need to reconnect with the bluegrass foundation she has with her longtime band Union Station.

Whatever the motivation, there’s no questioning the uniquely symbiotic relationship she shares with singer-guitarist Dan Tyminski, dobro master Jerry Douglas, banjoist-guitarist Ron Block and bassist Barry Bales, who returned to the studio for the first time in seven years for another scintillating outing.

Krauss may hail from Champaign, Ill., but her musical soul was forged in the same hard Appalachian soil from which bluegrass music arose, a spiritual place where life is tough, and only gets tougher, the sole hope being whatever lies above and beyond this mortal coil. And, perhaps, the harmonic comfort music can bring a troubled spirit.

“When I was young my momma would say, ‘Well life is hard, but that’s OK,’ ” Krauss sings in Aoife O’Donovan’s gothic “Lay My Burden Down.” In the title track -- another contribution by Robert Lee Castleman, a writer she’s tapped repeatedly over the years -- she tells a partner outright, “I know our love will die.” Tyminski’s steely tenor shines in his spotlight vocals on Peter Rowan’s “Dustbowl Children” and Tim O’Brien’s “On the Outside Looking In.”

Most contemporary country musicians steadfastly bypass the dark territory Krauss and her mates mine here, missing out on the deep emotion lurking within it. The loss is theirs.\

Update on April 14 at 7:14 p.m.: Target Stores are carrying an exclusive deluxe bonus edition of the album that includes three additional studio tracks plus three cuts from the group's 2002 album "Live."

-- Randy Lewis

Alison Krauss & Union Station
“Paper Airplane”
Three and a half stars

Comments () | Archives (5)

Ms. Alison Krauss has once again succeeded in bringing out the pain of life
through her lilting voice and her extraordinary violin playing. Her band-mates
are of such a calibur that they are not only musicians but also painters with
their instruments. I get such a vivid image in my mind of each song when I
hear them all play together. I am just a fan of music and have been for the past
45 years, but even I can pick them out with just the first couple of notes. In
my book they rate among the best in the top 10 of all musical classifications.
Thanks for letting me listen.

I absolutely love what Alison has done with this CD. I liked Raising Sand but wasn't as blown away as all the punters seemed to be. This is Alison and Union Station at their earthy best. When I heard the masterful song "Lay my Burden Down" at the end of the movie Get Low, my heart missed a beat and I said to my self.... Alison, are you back with us? Add in Dustbowl Children, (Peter Rowan) and you have the young and the old friends of Bluegrass and new-alt-appalachian-country, whatchamaycallit; the wonderfully creative, new-sounding yet traditionally based music of folks like Aoife O'Donovan. There is a god. And she loves good music. Well done Alison....

Alison and Union Station has been my favorite for 20+ years, every time they come out with new album it's like fine wine....they just get better with time...I never get tired of going to see them....their music is extremely soothing and pure.....my all time favorite!!

My wait is over for new and passionate bluegrass must from this stellar group. How real, full and feeling can an album be for the listener? Well this is (finally) the result from the glorious rendition of beautiful songs from the bluegrass masters. Forget the commericialization and hipe of other groups, find purity of song work in the new Paper Airplane album. Thanks to Alison Krauss and Union Station for the true enjoyment of listening to their unsurpassed song making artistry. High praise! (A raving and long time fan in Virginia)

Have been a fan for over twenty years, and although the review is a bit trite, this CD falls truly short of what I was hoping for. The vocals are haunting and beautiful, which is to be expected, but the instruments often overwhelm, and Dan Tyminsky's vocals are so grating due in part to their volume. The songs themselves are gorgeous, and the few times when Alison's voice is left to do the work are wonderful. But too much and too loud dobro made me keep turning down the volume, and having to strain to filter through to hear the real instrument I have followed these many years, Alison's voice.


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