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Music Review: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

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Written by General Jabbo 

For those who only know Robert Plant as the primal screamer behind such Led Zeppelin classics as “The Immigrant Song” and “Whole Lotta Love,” his pairing with bluegrass star Alison Krauss may come as a surprise.

Zeppelin wasn’t all about bombast though. For every “Black Dog,” there was “That’s The Way.” For every “Rock and Roll,” there was “Gallows Pole.” Indeed, Plant’s roots are as much in country, blues, and folk as they are in rock and roll and heavy metal. Always one to experiment musically and a professed fan of Krauss, Plant phoned her several years ago to express interest in working with her. It wasn’t until their duet at a Leadbelly tribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame though that they considered recording an album.

That album is Raising Sand. Produced by T Bone Burnett, with songs selected by Burnett with input from Plant and Krauss, Raising Sand is a diverse mix of blues, country, folk and roots rock songs from a wide range of writers, including: Tom Waits, Gene Clark, Phil and Don Everly, Little Milton Campbell, Mel Tillis and Sam Phillips.

The combination works to great effect, with Plant and Krauss sharing lead vocals on a number of songs, including a fun romp through the Everly Brothers’ “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),” a bluesy take on “Rich Woman” that would be at home on Plant’s Mighty Rearranger disc and a version of Mel Tillis’ “Stick With Me Baby” brimming with the hope and optimism of a couple in love against all odds.

The solo tracks work too, highlighted by Krauss’ haunting takes on Phillips’ “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” and Waits’ and Kathleen Brennan’s “Trampled Rose.” Plant’s emotional reading of Clark’s “Polly Come Home” and a heavy take on Townes Van Zandt’s “Nothin’” are highlights as well, with Plant’s and Krauss’ musical worlds colliding on the latter with its country fiddles over Zeppelinesque guitars.

Plant even covers himself, with a stripped down version of “Please Read the Letter” from 1998’s under-appreciated album with Jimmy Page, Walking into Clarksdale. A song of breakup, Krauss’ harmonies offer the woman’s perspective – as if they were both reading the same letter.

Backed by a crack band including Marc Ribot, Norman Blake, Mike Seeger, Jay Bellerose, and Dennis Crouch, Raising Sand sounds at once familiar and new. Two forces in their own right, Plant and Krauss combine to make something fresh and exciting. With rumors of a tour, the possibilities of Plant and Krauss reinterpreting each other’s catalogs makes this pairing even more intriguing. If Raising Sand is any indication, theirs could be the must-see tour of 2008.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • 10/20/2007//Saturday.


    Further on in the Thing…It Would Appear – That Mssr. ROBT. PLANT,Esq.,Would Have To Have A NEW Reinventing in His Sterling Musical Career As The Front-End of The “MIGHTY” LED ZEPPELLIN !! In the Thing…We find…….
    much ‘Scrutiny’ and Sobering Cues —
    the TENSION Remains ..that there is A Strong “GIVEN” Associated with the upcomming (“ONE –OFF”), CONCERT on NOVEMBER 26th,2007..on the Greenwich Pen.,At the o2 Collesium,In OLD LONDONTOWNE! The ‘Sand-In-The Oyster’,’Cockspurr in the Socks’,or A “Flash-Point” REMAINS … The Manager(s) of L.ZEPPELLIN & Mr, Robt. PLANT,. Esq., including the ‘Handlers of Ms.Kraus’–
    OHO! They Knew ‘JOLLY-WELL’ ABOUT This UPCOMMING SHOW at the 02 Collesium!! These Folks Have Been WELL-Taken Care IN the BUSINESS by its’ $ Profits $ For Several Decades!! The “Rub” & Untrue Story of a “CALENDAR CONFLICT b/WEEN Plants’Sojourn W/ A.KRAUSE on a “TOUR’ to Promote their ALBUM.

    Not Good Buisness Sense… The Obvious Choice W/ ALL Involved.. (Up To and Inclusively, Mr. Edgar Bronfman,Jr./ Chairman & CEO of WARNER MUSIC GROUP,INC.)

    Who Holds AND Distributes such KNOWN Labels AS: ATLANTIC/ATCO, LED ZEPELLINS'”PARENT’ Handler” (& the Main Distributor..of “SWAN SONG” Their Sub-Label(+)ALL the Rights & Privledges..therin!), REPRISE,VERVE,WARNER… Etc.,etc!!

    So… Don’t Be Suprised — If There is A ‘Marked SHIFT’ In ROBT. PLANT & ALLISON KRAUSSs’ TOUR!!Always Remember, in the Ministry /Buisness-END of the’RECORDING Business’ (as The Gr. Musician,Mr.RANDY NEUMAN Once Penned,as a Hit… “ITS’ $ MONEY $ THAT MATTERS!”) $$$<

  • I’ve gone back and forth on this one, El B. It sounded promising in concept, then I heard a clip of one track that turned me off for some reason, and then I heard clips of each song on Amazon and now I’m stoked all over again – and this review further confirms my feeling that it’s going to be pretty great.

    That’s one of the more intriguingly confusing comments to read, Sojourner Truth. My brain tilted sideways while reading that.

  • Tom, I am of the same mind as the General and enjoy the album more with each play; however, you have to throw out all preconceptions. On first listen to most songs my initial reaction was, “That’s Robert Plant? That’s Alison Krauss?” because the sounds are so different to what you expect to find their voices matched up with. “Rich Woman” opens the album and it sounds like a laid back Raveonettes song. Well worth it, though. One of the better albums I have heard this year.

  • i remember way back in 1932 a movie about MAE WEST in alaska she was playng the guitar and singing them blues then she did some gospel preaching of good will—-well THIS sure aint new—–whats old comes around and around it seems mr.plant is in the habit of using ladies to advance himself ya gotta feel for that real gal who bought the stairway to heaven–all freemasons know march 5 is her birth date–

  • bobby

    Stunning achievement! Just go get this album and listen to it several times with an open mind. I predict that the vast majority of music lovers, regardless of preferred genre, will take to this music like a duck to water. Mr. Plant, forever known as the singer for the worlds all time greatest rock band, the mighty Led Zeppelin, is in spectacular form here. Plant has never been properly credited (nor has Led Zeppelin for their softer gems) for the subtle nuance and beauty of his extraordinary unique voice. Krauss, much like Plant, is a courageous maverick in her own right, never content to play it safe. Their chemistry is pure magic. I expected a good album from such talent, but what we have here is greatness.


  • Gordon Ovenshine

    Raising Sand is stunning, easily the best album I’ve heard in 10 years. It should win a Grammy for album of the year.

  • I realize that this post is ancient history and all, but I was curious if anyone out there would know if the guitarist in the the video “Gone, Gone, Gone,(Done Moved On)” was Jimmy Page or not?

  • Never mind, I just found the answer to my own question. Don’t know why I can’t just find it before I ask.

  • Don’t keep us in suspense, Scott. Who was it?