Paper Airplane

Alison Krauss And Union Station

Rounder, 2011

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Paper Airplane was a much anticipated 2011 release from Alison Krauss and Union Station. AKUS has done more to bring bluegrass music to a wider pop/country audience than any other group, and their previous release, 2004’s Lonely Runs Both Ways, yielded a couple of mainstream hits. So Paper Airplane was expected to rock the house. Yet when they first went into the studio to track the album, Krauss was not thrilled with the product and the album was shelved while she and other members pursued other projects. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As with other AKUS albums in the last decade, Paper Airplane oscillated between a nebulous form of adult contemporary country pop and straight bluegrass. Usually Krauss croons the former while a band member will take the lead on the bluegrass tunes. The songs that Krauss sings are generally slow, with only "My Love Follows You Where You Go" and "Miles To Go" getting a little upbeat. Many of the tunes led by Krauss have both beautiful vocals and strong dobro licks and carry the hallmarks of Krauss's full sounding production techniques.  While on the other hand, those tunes led by band member Dan Tyminsi are generally upbeat, typical bluegrass sounding tracks.

There are several strong tracks on Paper Airplane. A cover of Jackson Browne's "Opening Farewell" harkens the admiration the band has for the singer-songwriters of the ‘70s and fits well with the song choices for the album. "Dust Bowl Children" is a gritty lamenting bluegrass tune of poverty and despair, while "My Love Follows You Where You Go" gives a full perspective on Krauss's strong vocal range.

With all of that said, Paper Airplane shows a band with an identity crisis. While there are good tracks on the album, overall it lacks consistency and feels like the band is pulling in one direction while Krauss is pulling in another. It is clear from listening to Krauss's output since her 1999 solo album Forget About It that her heart lies in the hard to identify form of adult contemporary that she has often produced. But she keeps coming back to the bluegrass band, which doesn't seem to fit her style anymore.

Rating: C+

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