When it comes to Alison Krauss & Union Station, I say if it's not broke, don't fix it. Keeping with same aesthetic that has brought them more than 20 years of success their new album, Paper Airplane, is yet another beautifully polished mix of rustic bluegrass and sophisticated pop. And, though it has been seven years since Alison Krauss & Union Station's acclaimed Lonely Runs Both Ways, the group's indelible chemistry is ever present throughout the record.
Krauss' vocals are in heavenly form on Paper Airplane, reminding everyone why she has won 26 Grammys. Singing expressively and effortlessly, her mezzo soprano soars on the airy title track written by longtime songwriting collaborator, Robert Castleman. Then, Dan Tyminski grounds the album with his earthy, well-worn vocals and Ron Block's fast and skillful banjo work on Peter Rowan's “Dust Bowl Children.” While a mysterious air surrounds Jerry Douglas' haunting Dobro and Krauss' lonesome vocals effectively set the mood on “Lie Awake.” The sweetly somber gospel hymn, “Lay My Burden Down” has a slightly traditional vibe whereas the banjo-driven composition on “My Love Follows You Where You Go” compliments the dramatic quality of Krauss' resolute power. And, on the cover of Richard and Linda Thompson's “Dimming of the Day,” Krauss exquisitely holds each note unstrained with a lingering heavyheartedness that keeps the song from becoming too heavy. The album is yet again brought down to earth with Tyminski singing Tim O'Brien's “On the Outside Looking In” and the outstanding narrative ballad, “Bonita and Bill Butler.” Finally, Paper Airplane closes with an amazing version of Jackson Browne's “My Opening Farewell.”
It has been reported that while recording Paper Airplane, Krauss suffered from migraine headaches, but whatever pressures and sicknesses plagued Krauss didn't seem to hinder the album. Instead, the record flows fluently and cohesively with superb songs and faultless vocals creating another outstanding record in the band's reputable and highly regarded cache.