Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Raising Sand


4.5
superb

Review

by timbo8 USER (42 Reviews)
December 18th, 2007 | 17 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An unlikely combination of superstars produces one of the year’s best.

From the outset, something like this has got to sound interesting. On one hand you have Robert Plant, singer and songwriter for rock and roll gods Led Zeppelin. On the other hand, you have Alison Krauss, the queen of modern bluegrass and the winner of more Grammy Awards than any other female artist with 20. From two seemingly diametric backgrounds, a love of harmonic vocals and American roots music brought these legends together in the studio where they charted new territory and explored new sounds for their repertoires. With the monumental direction, influence, and guitar-playing of producer T-Bone Burnett, this experimental project presents Raising Sand. What is technically a duet album sounds more like a profound fusion of two exceptional voices that play off of each other to create a collection of incredible harmonies.

Fans of either artist should know that the style of Plant and Krauss’s middle ground lie in the fields of rockabilly, blues and folk rock. While perhaps Plant strays a bit more out of his comfort zone, especially with origins as a hard-hitting rock star, both musicians were unknowing and curious about what their collaboration would yield. As Krauss tells it, when she was going over the songs Burnett suggested for her to sing, Burnett said, “Well, you both are nervous… and that’s what I wanted.”

The core band involved in this project includes vocalists from Plant and Krauss, fiddle by Krauss, producer and guitarist Burnett, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Dennis Crouch, drummer Jay Bellerose, guitarist Norman Blake, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger.

The first track “Rich Woman” lays out very nicely what the rest of album has in store with an old-fashioned introduction of a wavering, almost haunting electric guitar rhythm and a crystal clear drum beat that really makes the song a fun toe-tapper. Before long, though, is what we have all come to hear: Plant and Krauss nail the mood of the song perfectly and strike a perfect balance between fragile harmony and the swagger of the melody. The next song, the country ballad “Killing the Blues,” however, more aptly characterizes the general speed of the album, which is very slow. That the album is too slow would be the main complaint with the album, but it is hard to deny that the songs that drag down the pace are also exceedingly beautiful. Furthermore, the second half of the album picks up in speed as well as in song diversity.

After two songs that feature Plant and Krauss together, Krauss takes the helm with “Sister Rosetta Comes Before Us,” a graceful, haunting song that is sung beautifully with Plant offering an occasional harmonization. “Polly Come Home” is very similar, except that Plant takes the spotlight. His voice is surprisingly gentle with each wavering note captured and amplified by Burnett’s expert production. A raw guitar riff by none other than Burnett himself dominates the rockabilly “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),” which has been released as a single and nominated for the Grammy Award for “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.” Other songs, however, perhaps more deserve being released as a single, like the following track “Through the Morning, Through the Night.” This track is the album’s best example of Krauss and Plant using their gentle harmony to make the song into an especially potent emotional force. The song is nearly impossible to glaze over (or whatever is equivalent for the ear) as both voices are full of weight and inflection that responds wonderfully to the heaviness of the lyrics: “I dreamed just last night you were there by my side / Your sweet loving tenderness / Easing my pride / But then I awoke dear and found you not there / It was just my old memory of how much I care.”

More uplifting musically is “Please Read the Letter,” which in song length (almost six minutes), building verses and soaring chorus demands the most space on the album. The sorrowful “Trampled Rose” and the mainstream-sounding folk-pop of “Stick With Me Baby” keep the album tethered to a base of downtempo folk gems, but the album is nevertheless now in its more diversified second half. Between these songs is “Fortune Teller,” which is probably the most recorded and well-known song on the album. Originally recorded by R&B singer Benny Spellman in 1962, it has been covered by The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Hollies, and many more. Like many other songs here, the duo (well, trio including Burnett) almost make it their own with an extremely catchy breakdown that boasts the band’s instrumental finesse and shows Plant and Krauss having fun on the recording.

Some fantastic songs close out this fantastic album. “Nothin’” is a steady-going but powerful song led by electric guitar roars, Krauss’s fiddle work, and comparatively quieter breaks for Robert Plant’s eerie vocals that seem to harken back to Plant’s Led Zeppelin days. It is sure to be an album favorite for Plant and Led Zeppelin fans. “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson” is the ultimate toe-tapper of the album that dares you to get up and start dancing. As Plant had his best vocal performance on the previous track, Krauss is at her best here with some impassioned singing. She is at her loudest and most aggressive on the verses here in a performance that must be even more electrifying live. Finally, “Your Long Journey,” with its high-tuned melody and warm mood, closes out the album as it began: with Krauss and Plant singing together in excellent harmony.

For all the credit given to Plant and Krauss on this project that is surely a landmark in both careers, the stripped-down, skeletal production of T-Bone Burnett, who brought the same style and influence to the award winning American roots soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000, must not go unappreciated. In addition to his contribution as a guitarist, this collaboration would likely not have come into fruition or have been this astonishing without Burnett’s direction and production.

With rumors and speculation swirling over the future of Led Zeppelin (New album? Tour?), one sure thing is that Plant is going to be on tour with Krauss and Burnett supporting Raising Sand across Europe in June of 2008, demonstrating how close the project is to each of them. Furthermore, new material between them in the future is not out of the question. In this exciting new experiment, Plant ventures into the new realm of harmony singing that was never really an issue with Led Zeppelin, while Krauss strays from the confining bluegrass constructs that especially characterized her early career origins and finds space to breath with help from a blending of American roots genres. Together, this unexpected collaboration has yielded unexpected results from two accomplished musicians out of their comfort zones but nevertheless shining.



Recent reviews by this author
Candy Claws Hidden LandsTitle Tracks It Was Easy
O.A.R. In Between Now And ThenSo Cow Meaningless Friendly
Christmas Island Blackout SummerUmphrey's McGee Mantis
user ratings (73)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
MTEK
December 19th 2007


65 Comments


Great review!
This album is amazing.

dub sean
December 19th 2007


980 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i want this so bad

rattlehead42147
December 19th 2007


1345 Comments


I can assume this is probably pretty good, Alison Krauss' stuff with the Del McCoury band was excellent. Dunno how Robert's vocals are holding up these days though...

good review btw

Isola
December 19th 2007


421 Comments


Really need to get this... Alison Krauss is amazing.

Slaytan
December 19th 2007


1186 Comments


I was wondering how this album would turn out. Good job on the review as well.

TheStarclassicTreatment
December 19th 2007


2910 Comments


I wasn't too impressed with the album, maybe I need to give it a few listens though

Iai
Emeritus
December 19th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really dig this.

dub sean
January 19th 2008


980 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is beautiful. I finally found it and listened to it a couple times.

PhoenixRising
January 24th 2008


277 Comments


Interesting...

Getting this right now.

cbmartinez
January 24th 2008


2525 Comments


bought this for my dad for xmas, ripped it, it's fucking great

InsertTacosHere
April 22nd 2008


153 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, timbo. I saw Robert and Alison perform this on CMT (not a channel I normally watch) and the chemistry that they shared onstage with nothing short of magical. Although a Zeppelin reuniting is apparently out of the question now, I hope that we see more of this duet. Maybe they'll even turn up the volume a little more next time.

ilikemusicalot
April 22nd 2008


133 Comments


Great album, but for Gods sake, PLEASE do a tour with led zep.

ECRbubs
February 9th 2009


687 Comments


They can has grammy

ebay
July 13th 2009


501 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i've never really listened that much to either Plant or Krauss but this album is awesome. their voices blend perfectly.

fatlip27
January 17th 2010


246 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I feel the same way as ebay as I'm also unfamiliar with both artists' works, but this album had me almost crying not because of its beauty, but because I find it fitting that when I was a kid, I used to listen to country music because my dad listened to it as it was the most accessible music genre of the English language for a family of Mexican immigrants. About 20 years later, I just realized that country never really left me as this and albums from Against Me!, and Fake Problems can attest to, are beginning to make me come full circle to my past. I find it weird and sweet at the same time....

I haven't felt this way about an album outside of my musical preferences since Arcade Fire's "Funeral."

Beautiful review; very well done!

On a punk comparative side note, “Please Read the Letter" reminds me of A Wilhelm Scream's "Anchor End"; “Through the Morning, Through the Night" reminds me of Alkaline Trio's "Bleeder."

I'll be quiet now.......

MorningView425
September 29th 2010


162 Comments


i've always thought led zeppelin had a very american sound to them-despite the fact that they're from across the pond. i'm not a huge fan of the wavering guitar sound, but these two artists really work well together...shame i missed this when it first came out.

facupm
October 17th 2014


8385 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this was named aoty back at the time

its certainly sweet



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy