Alison Krauss & Union Station – “Paper Airplane”
Alison Krauss wasn’t present at last weekend’s ACM Awards in Las Vegas. Presumably she was busy polishing her obscene Grammy collection (27 and counting) and resting before the release of Paper Airplane, her first album with Union Station since 2004′s Lonely Runs Both Ways.
Krauss would be an odd fit at the festivities anyway: she’s rarely been favored by country radio, and her four career Top Ten appearances are mostly duet projects with other high-profile artists. But her indelible mark on the genre is deepened with her new album’s first single and title track. “Paper Airplane” projects a glass half empty approach to matters of the heart. With a wistful sigh, she again acknowledges that love is a fickle, fragile thing: “People come together/People go their own way/Love conquers few.”
It’s a message backed up here by stellar musicianship. Union Station is no mere supporting cast; the group works in tandem with Krauss to create a harrowing arrangement to match her mood. Dan Tyminski’s mandolin and Jerry Douglas’ dobro offer a sweet-and-sour duet of their own. As Tyminski chimes in with his hopeful notes, Douglas grounds the music with a sense of fear and mystery. It’s a pairing that would be worthy of an instrumental version even without Krauss’ ethereal voice.
But what a voice it is, as full of hope as it is of heartache. Few singers have the grace and vocal gifts to make a living from melancholy like Krauss does. Even in the late hours of night, as she fights the sorrow of unrequited love, there’s a dark beauty in her hard-won lesson: “Love is like a paper airplane/Flyin’ in the folded dent/Ridin’ high, dippin’ low.”
“Paper Airplane” doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it further defines Krauss’ elegant, timeless style. An understated gem like this is always a welcome breath of fresh air.
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