Year of the Album — #057
Alison Krauss & Union Station – “Paper Airplane” (2011, New Rounder)
Alison Krauss has the most distinct, original voice in contemporary bluegrass, and aside from her brief stint as a top 40 artist when her cover of Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All” went mainstream, she’s been blissfully under the radar. This has lent her career the qualities of a chameleon, allowing Krauss to play the music she wants, when she wants to. But whatever her experimentations, she’s always come back around to working with her band Union Station. And though Paper Airplane is her first album with the band since 2004’s Lonely Runs Both Ways, the music picks up right where they left off.
The title track is pure melancholy, with Krauss’s vocals sliding over a light background of guitar, banjo and hints of strings: “Love is hard to measure hidden in the rain,” she sings. “That’s why you’ll find me here all alone and still wondering why.” But the true highlights are among the well chosen covers. On “Dimming of the Day,” originally by Richard Thompson, Krauss puts forth one of her most stunning vocal performances in recent memory. “You pull me like the moon pulls the tide,” Krauss plaintively sings, and it’s immediately clear why her voice will always be welcome between my headphones. Krauss’s 14th album is as good as her first, and she shows every sign that she’s capable of writing wonderful roots music for years to come.