Thursday, October 25, 2007

Allison Krauss/Robert Plant- Led what?

With his old band doing a once-in-a-blue-moon reunion and finally getting their songs into the land of legal downloads (as one of the last hold-outs along with the Beatles), any other news about Robert Plant is drown out now. That's too bad because he just put out Raising Sand (Rounder), a lovely album with bluegrass maven Alison Krauss. When it was first announced a few months back, it turned some heads as an interesting idea and curiosity but rest assured that this record is for real.

Plant's had a pretty strange solo career that obviously couldn't match Zep but was always at least pretty unique. While most people remember their rampaging metal anthems, once in a while, the boys did show some of their folkie roots early on- most of them backed up Donovan in the late 60's and Sandy Denny made a great cameo appearance on their fourth album ("The Battle of Evermore").

It's not like Plant needs the publicity and to his credit, he usually uses that as his m.o. in his work. Still, he deserves a nod not just 'cause of his past or this kind of gutsy detour (which is kind of admirable) but also because Sand is probably one of the best releases this week.

He gets top-billing for obvious reasons but on the record, he really is the primary voice. But it's also not just Krauss' sweet voice (which works as a nice Emmlyou-like counterpart) but also T-Bone Burnett's airy production that makes this a noteworthy roots move. It also helps that the song selection is prime and that in any mode, the guy's still got a great voice, which does make a big difference: listen to their gentle rockabilly take on the Everly Brothers' "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" or their Bo Diddley-goes-swamp take on "Fortune Teller" (by Benny Spillman, later remade by the Stones) for proof. My only complaint is that Krauss doesn't get enough of the lead vocals and she deserves it (just listen to the sweet "Through The Morning, Through The Night," originally by Dillard and Clark).

But in all, it's a really nice roots record that's not just for Zep nuts. I hope that Bobby does another record with Krauss or at least hits the road with her.


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