I once dated a woman who was
a bluegrass fan. Of course, when she mentioned it, I promptly said,
"I love bluegrass!" although the only thing I knew was that
it involved banjos and fiddles and pickin’ and grinnin’. (My daddy was
a Hee Haw fan.) The next day, I headed to a music store to get
a best-of-bluegrass CD and actually enjoyed quite a bit of it, especially
the tracks by Alison Krauss.
The girlfriend is long gone,
but Alison Krauss still turns my head from time to time. In fact, the
Cold Mountain soundtrack, to which she contributed, is on my iPod.
As is Led Zeppelin IV. As a result, I once had a shuffle mode
moment in which "Stairway to Heaven" followed "You Will
Be My Ain True Love." It wasn’t exactly a natural progression.
So when I heard that Robert
Plant and Alison Krauss had made an album together, I thought it was a joke. But trust
me, Raising Sand is no joke.
As unlikely as the pairing
is, it works. The two voices come together in a way I didn’t expect
— the sound is neither bluegrass nor rock and roll, but you can hear
the influence of both. The songs are familiar — covers of Tom Waits,
the Everly Brothers, Sam Phillips and more, including
one by Jimmy Page/Robert Plant. One of my favorites is the
Townes Van Zandt song, "Nothin’," which combines Plant’s
Zeppelin-like guitar and Krauss’ country fiddle to remarkable effect.
And I’ve listened to "Polly Come Home" at least five times
today — it is very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, but much more haunting.
You can preview the entire recording on the album’s website.
Grammy Award winner T-Bone
Burnett produced Raising Sand and plays guitar on 10 of its
13 tracks. This "making of" video with Plant, Krauss and Burnett
lets us glimpse the chemistry between the three musicians that made
this recording so magical.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
will be featured guests on NPR’s World Café
Live on Nov. 22 between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. ET. No word yet on a tour,
but if Plant and Krauss come to town, I’ll be there.
Have you listened to Raising
Sand? What do you think of this pairing?