Raising Sand – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, 2007
I should say right up front: I’m am utterly under-qualified to talk about why this album is so one of a kind. But it is.
Let me start by telling you the few, very obvious things that I do know. Robert Plant is a living legend from a rock band you might have heard of. Alison Krauss is in a league of her own where country vocals are concerned, and her fiddle playing is not far behind. T-Bone Burnett is a producer of some considerable note. ‘Raising Sand’ is an album of covers from a lot of artists I haven’t heard of before. With the exception of The Everly Brothers, who I have. I don’t know any of the originals.
I’m done. Sorry. That’s me. If you want to know anything more in-depth about the songs, the musicians, the production or anything else for that matter, you might like to take a gander at this review on All Music. It says insightful things like “This tune, with its forlorn, percussion-heavy tarantella backdrop”, “It’s all swamp, all past midnight, all gigolo boasting” and “adds the kind of lonesome depth that makes this a song whispered under a starless sky rather than just another lost love song.”
And now for the dullard’s version.
I think it’s fair to say that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are one of the most unlikely combinations you could imagine. They aren’t exactly from the same world; their musical back-catalogues don’t overlap and, as far as I’m aware, they hadn’t collaborated before and haven’t done since.
And yet, somehow, when you hear them together it makes absolute, perfect sense. It’s almost so obvious that you wonder why it took until 2007 for someone to suggest it.
Perhaps it just comes down to natural talent and an expert ear for song selection. Plant and Krauss are without doubt two of the most unique and gifted vocalists recording today – whether you enjoy their music or not. T-Bone Burnett can evidently choose a set of songs, blend a group of musicians and arrange captivating renditions.
Genre-wise it’s hard to pin down (for me at least). Folky-blues, bluesy-folk, good old-fashioned rock and roll, a splash of bluegrass? Whatever else, be in no doubt that the vocals here are absolutely out of this world. Whether in duet or harmony, this is two stellar voices in intimate unison.
I don’t have the broadest or deepest musical knowledge around but I don’t have anything to compare Raising Sand to because it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I suspect you’ll either absolutely love it, or despise it. I can’t imagine there being much of a middle ground here.
If you want foot-tapping feel-good tunes there’s ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’, ‘Fortune Teller’ and ‘Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson’. If you prefer the sound of forlorn loneliness, plump for ‘Killing The Blues’, ‘Polly Come Home’ and ‘Through The Morning, Through The Night’. If you want to hear the stuff that slightly unnerves me, then the haunting eerieness of ‘Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us’, ‘Trampled Rose’ and ‘Nothin” are the tracks for you.
I appreciate that I’ve given you no incentive to give this album a try because I can’t explain what it is or why it’s so good. But I urge you to give it a listen – if for no other reason to see if it leaves you as blunderingly wordless as it has me.