Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Lush bluegrass/rock/folk from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Today I have to write about an album you have probably already heard. But on the off chance that there’s someone out there who missed it, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people praising “Raising Sand” by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

He got the money and she got the honey.

“Raising Sand” won album of the year in 2009 and it seems to me it could hardly miss. You start with Allison Krauss, who has won the 3rd most Grammy Awards of anyone all-time (behind conductor Georg Solti and performer/composer/producer/conductor Quincy Jones). Then you add rock legend Robert Freaking Plant of Led Zeppelin. Then Grammy winning producer T-Bone Burnett steps in and they recruit a host of jazz and bluegrass legends to back them up. The result was a platinum selling, critically acclaimed masterpiece.

Clearly, the focus of “Raising Sand” is the amazingly sweet pairing of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Krauss has a lovely voice, obviously, and a great feel for the bluegrass and folk that permeates the album. Plant is versatile and also quite comfortable singing folk music. Plant’s slightly rougher voice works incredibly well with hers and they harmonize beautifully. Krauss’ pure-as-ringing-crystal voice keeps them grounded while Plant’s loose style and rock fills keep things from getting sterile. It’s a potent combination.

Meanwhile, the musical textures of the album are wonderful. As the producer, Burnett gets credit for the overall sound of the album. It is at times warm and comfortable, at others driving and danceable. The musicians include men like Marc Ribot, Mike Seeger (half-brother of Pete), and bluegrass legend Norman Blake. These guys know their business and Burnett uses them brilliantly.

I often cherry pick albums so I don’t have to listen to some tracks I’m not crazy about. “Raising Sand” goes right in the CD player. They set a consistent mood throughout the album and the whole thing is great. I like these 7 in particular.

  • Rich Woman – They open “Raising Sand” with this track. Oozy guitars, smoky percussion, and effortless harmony vocals ease you right in.
  • Killing the Blues – John Prine’s original version of this song is slow and soft, but it sounds harsh next to the sanded smoothness of Krauss and Plant’s sweet crooning and gentle slide guitar.
  • Polly Come Home – This is one of two Gene Clark songs on this disc. If they played it any slower it would stop altogether, but somehow it is quietly compelling.
  • Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – This is an old Everly Brothers tune and the original hops. Krauss and Plant do it credit with their energetic version and the close harmony work on this is as good as any song on the album.
  • Please Read the Letter – The composers of this were actually Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. This is an old Zeppelin song that never made the cut. Plant was delighted to dust it off and get Krauss’ voice and violin in this new interpretation for its release.
  • Fortune Teller – Allen Toussaint wrote this cute song back in 1962. Since then it has been covered by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Hollies, and now these two.
  • Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson – Plant takes a seat and Krauss sings this without him. The studio musicians are hot, though, and they swing this blues classic by Little Milton.

I saw Robert Plant and Alison Krauss perform at Bonnaroo last year when they toured on this album. I think it had been a long time since Plant had played in front of quite so many screaming fans. He was very obviously blown away and having a great time. It was fun to watch. Plant and Krauss actually started working on a follow-up to “Raising Sand,” but Plant said in an interview published in USA Today that those sessions never found their groove and they apparently gave up on it. Too bad. Interestingly, Plant hung around in Nashville and put together another project, “Band of Joy,” which I only discovered today. I have ordered it, of course. I’ll let you know.

http://www.robertplantalisonkrauss.com/

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September 23, 2010 - Posted by | Alt Country, Country, Folk, Popular, Rock

2 Comments »

  1. I’m the off chance. So thanks!

    Comment by Jenn | September 23, 2010 | Reply

  2. Great! That’s why I write them up.

    Comment by MissedMusic | September 25, 2010 | Reply


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