Sunday, February 24, 2008

Raising Sand

You've heard of this, haven't you? The duet CD that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss did? I had several reactions when I first heard about this one, ranging from quirky to odd to intriguing to "Who thought that would be a good idea?" I mean, you can't be much farther apart musically than Black Dog and The Lucky One, can you?

Once I thought about it a little more, though, it didn't seem as far off base as I first imagined. Consider the Led Zeppelin songs The Battle of Evermore, which is basically Jimmy Page playing the mandolin while Robert Plant sings part of The Lord of the Rings, or When the Levee Breaks, which is Delta blues played louder than usual. Or consider that Alison Krauss + Union Station have covered songs by the Beatles and Bad Company. Or that Alison herself has waived off millions in income by staying largely as a bandleader in the bluegrass/acoustic music tradition. She has to be the most notable iconoclast in American music this side of Willie Nelson

Okay, having built a case that the pairing isn't so strange as it appears on the surface, what about the music? Glad you asked. It goes down about as smooth as a drink of well water on a July day on a Carolina farm. Both Plant and Krauss stretch outside their usual leanings, they have some pretty sweet harmonies together, the song choices have some real personality quirks, and the sonic landscape is appealing. The last two aspects of the project can probably be ascribed to T-Bone Burnett, the CD producer who's also responsible for the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou. Remember that Plant is a songwriter who had a hand in most of Led Zeppelin's better known songs, and that Krauss is a highly skilled song interpreter, almost on par with Tricia Yearwood. All in all, Raising Sand is one of 2007's biggest, and most pleasant, musical surprises. I won't be at all surprised if it is considered a classic in a few years.


Procopia said...

Thanks for writing this.

Fifecat said...

I want to hear this now! Mr F and I went to see Led Zeppelin in 1979 ...