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Alison Krauss

Paper Airplane – 2011 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Nelson Gullett

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CDs by Alison Krauss

If we've learned anything over the 7 years that have passed since the last Alison Krauss & Union Station record (2004's "Lonely Runs Both Ways"), it's that Krauss doesn't necessarily need her band for success. And the same can be said for the band regarding Krauss.

During the hiatus, Krauss scored a mega-hit with "Raising Sand," her collaboration with Robert Plant from 2007. At the same time, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dan Tyminski and Dobro master Jerry Douglas both put out acclaimed solo records in 2008, and bassist Barry Bales (The Civil Wars, Patty Loveless) and multi-instrumentalist Ron Block (Sierra Hull, Darius Rucker) remain highly sought after session players in Nashville.

The beauty of this band, however, is that no matter how long they are apart and what direction each of them is heading in his or her solo career, they seem to pick up exactly where they left off when reunited. The album opening title track captures the classic AKUS sound with Krauss' voice soaring against the grounded playing of her band mates. It begins album on an achingly beautiful note.

The Robert Lee Castleman tune also highlights how adept the band has become at choosing songs for their records. In addition to frequent collaborator Castleman (Forget About it, The Lucky One) they also mined the catalogues of Peter Rowan, Lori McKenna, Tim O'Brien, Chris Stapleton, Jackson Browne and Richard Thompson for this record. Whether it's Tyminski taking the lead on Rowan's up tempo Dust Bowl Children or Krauss floating through Thompson's Dimming of the Day, the band makes each song their own.

Other highlights include the haunting Viktor Krauss and Angel Snow composition Lie Awake and Bales' co-write with Stapleton on Miles to Go. The latter represents the only writing credit for a member of the group. When you can so thoroughly inhabit someone else's songs, there's no need to write your own.

It may be true that Alison Krauss doesn't need Union Station, and Union Station doesn't need Alison Krauss. But we need them, and it's good to have them back.