She's still flying high

Though it’s been seven years between albums, Alison Krauss remains on top of her game

Alison Krauss and Union Station - (from left) Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski, Barry Bales, and Ron Block - recently released the new album “Paper Airplane.’’ Alison Krauss and Union Station - (from left) Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski, Barry Bales, and Ron Block - recently released the new album “Paper Airplane.’’ (Randee St. Nicholas)
By James Sullivan
Globe Correspondent / July 22, 2011

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The recent release of “Paper Airplane’’ came seven years after Alison Krauss had last cut a record with her world-class, Grammy-scarfing bluegrass band, Union Station. In the meantime, the Illinois native stayed plenty busy, highlighted by a surprise musical rendezvous with former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant on the lavishly praised album “Raising Sand.’’ Alison Krauss and Union Station perform tomorrow at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, at Mountain Park in Holyoke on Sunday, and at the Wang Theatre in Boston on July 28.

Q. Would it be rude to tell a lady that she seems like an old soul?

A. No. At least not me. I like that.

Q. You’ll be in Massachusetts when you turn 40. Any big plans?

A. I hope not!

Q. You’ve had such a long career already, it seems remarkable that you haven’t even reached 40 yet.

A. Well, I don’t think about it that much. I , ah . . . It’s been a very interesting life. Pretty special. As long as I keep my teeth for a while, I’m happy.

Q. Is this the longest the band has been out of the studio?

A. Well, it’s the longest between albums. I’ve been in the studio. I made a record for Alan Jackson. There’s a European compilation that Dan [Tyminski, guitar, mandolin] made. Ron [Block, banjo, guitar] made two, Jerry [Douglas, Dobro] made two. But as a whole new band album, it’s been seven years.

Q. Was it a transition to get settled back into the studio, or was it pretty easy, considering how comfortable you’ve grown with each other?

A. A little bit of both. There were different circumstances on this one. I was not well. I had a migraine every day for 2 1/2 months. It was hard for me to focus, to work like I normally do. Usually it’s pretty obvious what I don’t like and do like. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s a guide. This time it was really hard. Everything was pretty gray.

Q. Did you solve that problem?

A. Yeah. It’s pretty inconsistent now when I get them. Acupuncture made the difference. I had a friend who suggested it. He said this woman had changed his life, and she did mine as well.

Q. So this will go down as an unusual recording experience for you - you’re going to remember this record tied to the migraines.

A. It was pretty rough, yeah. I missed a lot of days in the studio even after we’d tracked, because I just couldn’t move.

Q. In an age when the music industry is a little uncertain, it seems like you’ve had a pretty special relationship with your label, [Burlington’s] Rounder Records, over the years.

A. It’s been great. I’ve been very happy to have stayed there and been with those folks. I have no regrets.

Q. I’m sure you’ve answered too many questions about working with Robert Plant. . .

A. I have no problem answering questions about Robert. Robert is a delight.

Q. I’d imagine your first reaction to the idea of recording with him was, “What the hell. . .’’

A. No, at the time I thought, “Boy, how interesting.’’ I’d met him a few years before, and he was very much - is very much - a music fan. Of all different kinds of traditional music. I got it. I got why he’d be listening to bluegrass. The first conversation I had with him, he was talking about listening to Ralph Stanley as he drove through the Appalachian mountains. It’s really a beautiful thing - such a passion.

Q. The music you make is so timeless, it almost seems like you’d want to seclude yourself from contemporary music so yours isn’t tainted.

A. Oh, that’s funny. Everybody [in the band] knows more of what’s going on than I do. Jerry, he’s just very interested. He has a very active musical life. He plays on all sorts of stuff. I don’t worry about anything being tainted. When I’m home, I like to sit in the quiet, but I like a lot of funk, too. I don’t really seek out the genre we play music in.

Q. Just about everyone in the band sings, and Dan gets his showcases. Have there been times where there’s a little indecision - “Gee, which one of us should sing this song’’?

A. I think it’s come up one time. Dan to me, when I think of the essence of who his voice represents, it’s that person who sings against the elements, who sings to the sky when the crops aren’t growing, who sings to the sea when the sea is too rough and sings to God when there’s a war. He’s shouting “Why, why, why?’’ That kind of person wouldn’t sing what I sing. I call it “the message.’’ That would be his message. My message isn’t his.

Q. Does he feel that way too, or does he chuckle and say, “Well, that’s what Alison thinks I’m about’’?

A. It’s a little bit of both. He gives me a hard time about it. He just says, “What am I gonna be today, a farmer or a soldier?’’ He doesn’t have any problem with the tunes. I think there was one he really hated through the years, but he didn’t tell me at the time. The reaction people have to the way he sings that kind of subject - people react very positively, because he kills it. I think Dan in his element, no one can touch him.

Q. The people who come to see you are not necessarily watching the Nashville Network. Plenty of them are, but you also draw from the people who are not.

A. Well, I don’t know, but that’s fine. [Laughs]

James Sullivan can be reached at

ALISON KRAUSS AND UNION STATION At: the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis tomorrow; Mountain Park in Holyoke Sunday; the Wang Theatre July 28. Visit www.alison for more information.