Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Rounder, 2007)

Alison Krauss, both solo and backed by her band Union Station, has been a dominant figure in the bluegrass and alternative country scenes for two decades. Robert Plant, among other things, was the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Neither needs much of an introduction, but the two performers hardly come across at first glance as likely people to collaborate on an album. However, their careers are both deeply rooted in the musical traditions of America, particularly country and blues. After hearing them together on the unapologetically rootsy Raising Sand, the pairing now seems perfectly natural.

The third collaborator on the project is guitarist/producer T-Bone Burnett. In addition to his own solo career, Burnett's very extensive resume includes production credits for Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and his ex-wife Sam Phillips. He is probably best known, though, for co-ordinating and producing the soundtrack for the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?

From start to finish, Raising Sand is straightforward, old school country and rock. Indeed, the album largely sounds like it could have been made over forty years ago. The arrangements are mostly sparse, with not much besides one guitar, bass, drums, and occasionally Krauss' fiddle accompanying the vocalists. Both the singers are in fine form. Plant has had the tendency in some of his solo work to try a little to hard to hit notes that are no longer in his range, but he sings within himself here and sounds really good.

Most of the songs date back to the fifties and early sixties, including covers of country and rock standards like Mel Tillis' "Stick With Me, Baby," The Everly Brothers' "Gone, Gone, Gone" and Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller." The one new song, "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," was written by Sam Phillips. My favorite song on the album is "Please Read the Letter," a song Plant had written and initially recorded with Jimmy Page on their Walking into Clarksdale album.

If you're looking for some basic no-frills rock and roll, then Raising Sand will do nicely. It's not groundbreaking or overwhelming, but it's a fun little record that proves that the music of the early rock era can still sound fresh and vital today in the right hands.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

1 comment:

boneyjoney said...

The Alison Krause/Robert Plant album, "Raising Sand" is the most refreshing I've heard in a while.
I was pleased that it won a grammy award.
And I understand that their tour is the hottest ticket going.