Sometimes it is difficult to understand the broad influence of an artist while a career is ongoing. Make no mistake, Alison Krauss has changed music. It's hard to deny her 26 Grammy wins.
She brought "newgrass" music to the mainstream including working with several of the key figures in that movement, people like Sam Bush as well as her current bandmate Jerry Douglas. Her ability to bring a smooth and textured approach without losing bluegrass's bite has influenced country radio as acoustic-based songs became staples on the dial.
Krauss has also established herself as one of the great interpreters of today. Krauss is not a songwriter, but a seeker of songs. Krauss has mined the catalogs of writers like Robert Lee Castleman, Sidney Cox, and Gillian Welch, helping to provide each a larger stage for their fine songwriting.
Finally, Krauss has become an adventurous collaborator. Her album with Robert Plant (Raising Sand produced by TBone Burnett) broke all boundaries. Krauss has also shown her love for rock by covering "Missing You" with John Waite himself. Krauss always follows her heart with her music, and thankfully, she's been handsomely rewarded.
After a seven year absence from recording, Krauss reunites with her bluegrass ensemble Union Station in releasing Paper Airplane. This album seeps in a lush melancholy starting off with the title track. Other songs like "Lie Awake", "My Love Follows You Where You Go", and "Sinking Stone" build on this darker undercurrent.
Union Station proves that this a band record. Guitarist Dan Tyminski takes the lead on "Dust Bowl Children", "On The Outside Looking In", and "Bonita And Bill Butler" which grounds the record in traditional bluegrass serving as important grounding force for the album.
The inspired song choices continue as AKUS looks back decades to mine the catalog of Jackson Browne ("My Opening Farewell") and Richard Thompson ("The Dimming Of The Day"). Krauss nails both these songs capturing their deep emotional power.
Throughout the sadness of Paper Airplane, Krauss and her bandmates deliver an important ray of hope with "Lay My Burden Down", a song that played during a key moment in the wonderful Robert Duvall film Get Low.
Duvall's character suffers from a tragedy he carries throughout his life because he can't find the courage to admit his responsibility. He decides to instead suffer in solitude until he finally musters the courage to let go of his pain. Krauss's song captures that moment letting any and all know that it is never too late for redemption.
Alison Krauss and Union Station continue to add to their legendary catalog of music with Paper Airplane. Although we don't know where Krauss's muse will take her next, we can rest assured that true music lovers should follow her there.
- Jim Markel