They had plenty to start with when they began recording for the album that would become “Paper Airplane.” Over time, though, they became disenchanted. Many of the songs just didn’t feel right for the bluegrass supergroup known for the special quality of its material.
“It’s quite possible that we canned three albums worth of material,” singer and guitarist Dan Tyminski said.
The band soon decided that it’s long-delayed and much-anticipated follow-up to 2004’s “Lonely Runs Both Ways” would be delayed once again. The five members of the group _ dobro player Jerry Douglas, bassist Barry Bales and banjo player Ron Block round out Union Station _ had struggled to get together after Krauss‘ collaboration with Robert Plant on “Raising Sand.” A tour for that album and a scrapped follow-up session stretched into time originally blocked out for Union Station. Krauss‘ migraine headaches prematurely ended one session and others were difficult to schedule because the other members had their own busy careers and families to attend to.
So by the time they got back together to record they were more than ready. But, Bales says, it was a struggle to come up with material. The group can be picky, he acknowledged, and occupies “this weird middle ground” in Nashville. The band doesn’t play Top 40 country songs, eliminating a vast songwriting resource, and it doesn’t mine well-trod traditional bluegrass territory either.
Most of the songs the band had already recorded didn’t have that immediate feel they were looking for with this album. They culled six from those first sessions, but that didn’t make a complete album. So they started a search for more.
“It was kind of like going to the eye doctor,” Bales said. “Is this better or is this better?”
Krauss decided to lean on an old friend Robert Lee Castleman, who had come through for her many times in the past on Grammy-winning songs like “The Lucky One” and “Restless.” It had been a while since they worked together, but she thought for sure he’d have a song to spare.
She got some bad news, though. Turned out Castleman was a very happy man.
“And he says, `I’m dry. I don’t have anything. I’m not inspired,’” Krauss said. “He’s always written about love and it not working out and he’s now married with a beautiful daughter and a beautiful son. And he says, `I go to these places. I used to be brokenhearted and I just can’t find it.’”
Nevertheless he invited Krauss over and she sat with him for a while, catching him up on her life. The previous few years had been eventful for Krauss, whose “Raising Sand” project with Plant was a surprise whirlwind that netted six Grammy awards. She also worked on nearly two dozen other projects between the release of “Raising Sand” and “Paper Airplane,” including a Grammy-winning release by Yo-Yo Ma, producing an album for Alan Jackson and collaborations with Reba McEntire, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
She had a lot to tell. Ninety minutes later she left Castleman’s with few expectations.
“So then about seven hours later he called me with a title,” Krauss said. “He said it’s called `Paper Airplane.’”
It’s trademark Krauss _ delicate and ethereal, yet powerful in both message and emotional effect. It’s themes _ disconnection and the end of a trial _ resonate across the eight songs Krauss sings on the album.View Entire Story
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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