Record Of The Week # 124

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raise the Roof

It was an unlikely pairing of bluegrass country/folk singer Alison Krauss with her ethereal and crystal clear voice and 70s rock icon Robert Plant with his remarkable range and phrasing for their award winning 2007 collaboration Raising Sand. The album’s success was likely built on their respective followings and a varied selection of accessible americana. This showcased their vocals with T Bone Burnett’s excellent song curation and production. In 2021 this team is back.

Plant’s seems to have spent 40 years (and 16 albums) attempting to distance himself from Led Zeppelin; his subsequent record sales are impressive but it’s that legacy that excites new and old listeners. He’s latterly ploughed an Americana roots furrow with world music rhythms. Krauss hasn’t been prolific and 2017’s delightful Windy City was her last album. Krauss has her roots in bluegrass but aside from the Union Station work I think of her songs as being country folk ballads where smooth heartfelt melancholy seems to be her signature.

Like Raising Sand here are a selection of covers from the likes of the Everly Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Hank Williams and Lucinda Williams. The album often has rhythms that find their origin in world music and it certainly gives the sound a greater vigour. There are a breadth of songs from different genres ghostly reimagined whether 1960s pop, folk, country, rock and rockabilly. Both take various lead vocals with the other picking up the chorus. The duets are few and far between. Plant’s leads are strident yet flexible, yet when he joins on the chorus he croons sympathetically in the background. Krauss takes the lead on songs that are quite similar to her existing catalogue and otherwise it is always the second voice you hear on a duet.

Burnett and his band are tight and Jay Bellerose’s drumming is hypnotic as he propels each song. Krauss picks up her fiddle for the folk rendition of “You Led Me To The Wrong”. Plant, in a Zeppelin ballad mode, recalls his murder of his woman’s other love interest. This could be any 18th century British folk ballad but here it’s more 19th century Wild West. “Trouble With My Lover” takes Krauss out of her comfort zone and with a walking bass and steady drum beat it mimics Peggy Lee’s Fever; she even delivers a little unexpected sass. “High and Lonesome” isn’t a cover and maybe the best track here with Plant imperiously strutting his stuff over a jungle rhythm and strings. 

For those wanting second helpings from 2007 then step up. This is an excellent offering in the broad church of americana. Plant and Krauss have award winning voices especially when singing a terrific selection of compositions all beautifully played and produced.

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