Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (Rounder)
Stunning. A neck-craning collaboration so unexpected that you’re immediately drawn to investigate. Then, almost as soon as you hear the two efficiently work their voices together, you realize that such a pairing is one of the reasons you’re so obsessive about music to begin with. Yes, this is soul enriching stuff, the type of album that you’d stay alive to hear again. And, coincidentally, the type of album that you need to make sure you don’t live another day without hearing.
Raising Sand is a ribbon microphone document of several genre-jumping passages (some are masterfully completed in a single song) delivered with incredible authenticity. The opener, “Rich Woman,” sounds straight out of the Louisiana bayou with a gritty little guitar solo secretly positioned only in the right channel and a pair of perfectly matched harmony vocals that don’t even begin to prepare you for stunners you’ve yet to hear.
If you’re not keeping track right now, we haven’t even reached the second song.
“Killing The Blues” comes wrapped in a beautiful steel guitar and dressed to the nine with the pair’s sorrowed harmonies. By track 3, Producer T-Bone Burnett introduces the duo to one of his wife’s (Sam Phillips) originals, “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us.” Kraus takes the song to enormous heights both vocally and with her mood-stirring violin work. Plant, meanwhile, graciously allows Kraus to take the spotlight for this moment, allowing Burnett and Kraus to unleash a subtle masterpiece.
To remind you again: we’re only three songs into the album.
By now, you’ve figured out that there’s another incredible talent working behind the two headliners. T-Bone Burnett has done an impeccable job with Raising Sand‘s conscientious recording strategies and vintage gear line up. Akin to Lanois’ work with Dylan, Burnett subtly moves from feeling to feeling, depending on the song, rather than Lanois’ tendency to make the song’s fit the album’s underlying atmosphere.
“Please Read The Letter,” the album’s lone original (Plant is one of the co-songwriters) is also perhaps the album’s lone stumbling point. It seems markedly out of place and you can hear Plant try to muster up some semblance of excitement at the end when he starts implementing restrained Zeppy vocal embellishments (“Uah! Uah! Uah! Uah!”) towards the end.
Still, it’s not enough of a setback to have you reaching for the skip button and it surely doesn’t take away from the glaringly obvious fact that Raising Sand will go down as one of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s best work. Considering the incredible record of accomplishment that these artist already have, that’s enough worthy praise to having you seeking out this wonderful effort of surprising beauty.
MP3: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – “Killing the Blues” (You can stream the entire album, too.)
5 thoughts on “Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand”
I don’t understand the enthusiasm for this admittedly agreeable, but nothing-special easy-listening record. Reminds me of Nora Jones.
Are we listening to the same record here? While Jones and her band come across as manicured Blue Note contemporaries with a pretty singular vision, the band I’m hearing on Raising Sand has a little bit of dirt in their nails, a little more miles on the odometer (read: a variety of musical influences), and some integrity in the notes they’re generating. This may be the most genuinely conceived album of the year, and to haphazardly compare it to a Nora Jones record is a bit feeble.
Yeah, I love this album. Thank god for T-Bone Burnett’s ability to make unexpected but perfect collaborations like this happen. (But note that “Please Read the Letter” is not an original, but a new version of a song written for Page & Plant’s “Walking Into Clarksdale”.)
I had it streaming for most of an afternoon, and I didn’t hear dirt, I heard smooth. The Nora Jones comment was a throwaway, it wasn’t supposed to be greatly significant: I like her fine, too, and I think a fan would argue that she includes a lot of different musical influences as well. I don’t think either are bad, just not a big deal.
I understand what you’re saying now. The dirt I was referring to isn’t from the production value, which is thoroughly modern and detailed, but from the performances themselves. When I close my eyes, I can picture the band on Raising Sand as the type of cats that would help me change my tire if I had a flat. I imagine the members of Nora Jones’ band as the type of fellas that would flirt with my wife while I’m sweating with the jack.
And I think the big deal is pairing the ethereal Krauss with an infamous mud-shark fisherman is kinda special before the first note is even uttered.