Thursday, October 25, 2007

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss -- Raising Sand

One is among the most recognizable front men of all time -- a true rock star and the voice of one the biggest bands of all time. His solo career, while successful has never been overly compelling.
Golden god rides again
The other is the first lady of contemporary bluegrass, which in case you didn't realize, is basically the same as classic bluegrass. She is a very capable producer, having worked on her own albums with Union Station and helming the board for acts like Nickel Creek. She also has a well deserved reputation as a standout collaborator, working and performing with everyone from Dolly and Shania to Phish.

But leave it to T-Bone Burnett to push these two voices to create an album that feels completely comfortable and natural but in many ways should be comOBP, Original Bluegrass Pimp Ralph Stanleypletely unexpected. Burnett a one time singer/songwriter/performer has spent nearly the last 30-years building a resume producing a albums for a considerable breadth of artists in a style that can only be summarized as distinctly and wonderfully American. This album is no exception.

There's very little here that points to Alison Krauss's bluegrass roots and there's certainly nothing that approaches the bombastic blues rock, epic arena rock or even folk-y acoustic side of Robert Plant's Led Zeppelin. If anything the album sounds like a warm and modern equivalent of the estuary Sun Records once occupied, neither completely country or rock n' roll and frankly unconcerned with those types of labels.

The Nashville band is typical of one Why no t-bone?manned by Burnett -- tasteful, competent, loose and fully capable of cutting loose on a dime. While it's tempting to say that the voices are the real stars here, it's not fully the case. Plant and Krauss have a wonderful vocal blend that belies the recency of their collaboration. They effortlessly switch between the lead and supporting roles and you never feel cheated when the album moves from an "Alison song" to a "Robert song".

But the star is the arrangements and the songs themselves. Burnett supplied them with songs from classic American songwriters like Sam Phillips, Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt and Mel Tillis. They nail almost each one with the right amount of guitar twang, tremelo, slap backed vocals and economical use of overdrive and fiddle in equal measure. Plant's voice has in particular not seemed so comfortable in years, he never pushes his range to perhaps lost extremes and his often soft delivery is entirely successful.

Stand outs include the Everly Brother's "Gone Gone Gone" and the Page, Plant penned "Please Read the Letter" which didn't sound nearly as compelling on the Page, Plant reunion record of a decade ago.Obvs

While the impending Led Zeppelin reunion concert, release of their catalog to digital downloads and completely unnecessary re-repacking of Zep hits may take center stage in the weeks to come, let's hope that doesn't overshadow this stand out album.

Certainly if the Zeppelin can't take flight, Plant could find far worse ways to spend 2008 than with Krauss and Burnett touring smaller stages.

Rating: 4/5


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Blogger Yale Bloor said...

Great review, I personally only rate it two bong hits out of five as I find Miz Krauss's voice somewhat irritating, but none the less I find the song Rich Woman to be quite a find and a great addition to Mr. Plants backlog of fantastic music...

7:20 AM  

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