Alison Krauss & Union Station- Paper Airplane Review

In today’s Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column, I review the latest from AKUS. The review is posted below. Personally, I would like to hear more bluegrass from the band- my kind of bluegrass- but am wise enough to know that that isn’t likely to happen; it is better to appreciate what the band does than lament what the band doesn’t perform.

While Krauss’s own work with Robert Plant briefly threatened to eclipse Union Station’s substantial glow, all who have some understanding of the band and its workings were confident that they would return as strong as ever, and they have.

Looking forward to their early July concert in Edmonton…although I wouldn’t mind better seats! Wanna trade?

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Alison Krauss & Union Station Paper Airplane Rounder

It has been six years since we’ve heard new music from this top-drawing bluegrass band and while such a stretch might prove commercial suicide for some, the hiatus has allowed the band members to take care of themselves and rejuvenate while exploring side projects.

The quintet returns with an impressive collection of 11 songs, most of which will sound familiar to those who appreciate their uplifting sound.

Krauss and her Union Station mates- and AKUS is truly a band, not a backing unit for a featured performer- further refine the acoustiblue parameters that they have established and explored over the past fifteen years since So Long, So Wrong. The acoustic instrumentation is, as expected, exemplary in its tone and execution and while some of the songs- it could be argued- have a similar calm and sedate sound, there are enough lively moments to maintain momentum.

“My Love Follows You Where You Go” and “Lay My Burden Down” are the most dynamic pieces on which Krauss sings lead; the band pushes things a little, allowing Krauss to sing in a fuller voice than she does elsewhere. Krauss’s signature is the plaintive, yearnsome qualities she conveys vocally in romantic and decidedly anti-romantic settings and these are always appreciated.

The album’s cornerstone song may be an evocative rendering of Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day” on which Krauss’s breathlessly communicates the love that grows with absence.

While much of the music of Paper Airplane is only distantly related to traditional bluegrass, the album does have its share of unrestrained moments. “Dust Bowl Children” is one of three songs to feature the aggressive tenor of Dan Tyminski in the lead position, and each of these songs is better than the one that came before.

Beyond their instrumental and vocal harmony mastery, what is remarkable about Union Station is that they can take an album’s worth of songs from outside writers- only bassist Barry Bales shares a co-writing credit on the album- and make them completely their own. You hear and feel their anguish, their questioning, and their hopes in every note.

Singularly, the songs are arrestingly enjoyable. Collectively, the cohesive flow of Paper Airplane amounts to one majestic performance.

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