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What I’m listening to this week: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

July 9, 2009

Raising Sand – 2007

Raising Sand, a collaboration between Zeppelin legend Robert Plant and bluegrass heroine Alison Krauss, was produced by Americana expert T-Bone Burnett, and is a lesson in pitch-perfect musical production.  It’s an album of mostly covers, given a breath of new life by the unlikely harmony of two very different singers.  Without a doubt, the greatest success of the album is hearing Plant and Krauss sing together; their voices blend together into a sultry, warm intonation that lend an air of wisdom and worldliness to the lyrics.

All of that said, the album is very low-key, and also quite long.  There are 13 tracks here and nine of them are over the four-minute mark.  It’s easy to appreciate the extra-refined production value and rich instrumentation, but listening to Raising Sand is a commitment that requires effort.  It’s best savored as mood-setting music, and there’s every type to be found: sexy and confident, forlorn and heartbroken, haunting and creepy, atmospheric and earthy.  This is due to Burnett’s finesse, the outstanding musicianship (the studio musicians were some of the best in the business), and of course, the absolute professionalism and brilliant vocals of Plant and Krauss.

Each track has its own merits, but there are definitely essential ones.  The first track, “Rich Woman” has a classic stalking blues rhythm plus a swampy reverb, and Plant and Krauss are at their most alluring here.  “Killing The Blues” is a gorgeous country-folk song where the vocals dance effortlessly over the sweet and lulling music.  Krauss goes solo on “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” a creeping, gypsy-tinged track filled with emotion thanks to Krauss’ pure voice.

One of the more upbeat songs is the classic blues-rock “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)”, and it’s a welcome change of rhythm that is allowed to be just a touch messier than the rest of the album.  “Please Read The Letter” is the most heart-wrenching track on Raising Sand.  Krauss provides the harmony here to Plant’s lead and there is an incredible amount of frank desolation in their voices.  I also like “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson” because Krauss comes out of her shell and delivers a sassy, countrified vocal that is markedly different from her carefully restrained performance on the rest of the album.

Raising Sand won the Grammy for Album of the Year at the 2009 ceremony.  While I think that maybe it could have benefitted by having a couple less tracks (hey, just more material for another great album!) and perhaps even being dirtied up a little, there’s no arguing with the fact that Plant and Krauss an exceptional duo, possibly one of the best duet pairs ever.  That and the terrific quality of the music here are the best reasons to own this album.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. seanningham permalink*
    July 29, 2009 4:19 pm

    Best duets pair ever? They’re close, but what about Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis?

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