Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: Raising Sand

While the hard rocking British daddy and innocent sounding waif may seem an unlikely pair, they fit together well to create a distinctively satisfying album of rootsy American music.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Raising Sand

Label: Rounder
US Release Date: 2007-11-27
UK Release Date: 2007-10-29

Ex-Led Zep lead singer Robert Plant has moaned about looking for a good Kentucky woman ever since the '60s. Country belle Alison Krauss may not originally come from the Bluegrass state, but she has made that music her own ever since she was 12 years old and won her first fiddle playing championship. While the hard rocking British daddy and innocent sounding waif from the Land of Lincoln may seem an unlikely pair, their two high-pitched, emotive voices fit together well to create a distinctively satisfying album of rootsy American music.

Much of the success must be credited to producer T. Bone Burnett, whose idea sparked this project, and the crackerjack band he put together. The instrumentalists include avant garde experimentalist Marc Ribot on electric guitar, banjo and Dobro, old time music maven Mike Seeger on autoharp, and legendary string man Norman Blake on acoustic guitar. These players and others create a foggy atmospheric backdrop upon which Plant and Krauss ply their sonic trades to full effect. The music shimmers and shakes as the duo provides the listener with solid melodic lines to hang on to.

Plant and Krauss sing some songs together in one voice, such as the gospel-inflected love ballad “Your Long Journey". When the two sing about walking hand in hand in heaven in the family of the Lord, the effect is truly celestial. They also know how to get down and dirty together on tunes like the bluesy “Rich Woman” that just reeks of sex. One can feel the earth move when they simultaneously croon “I got the honey” in throaty voices.

The two take turns singing lead on other songs with interesting results. Plant handles most of the vocal chores on the old R&B chestnut “Fortune Teller” as Krauss chants a seductive “ooh-ooh-ooh” overtop. This gives the music a more spiritual than sensual feeling than is usually the case, the opposite of what one might expect from when a man sings lead. Krauss takes the solo on Tom Waits’ spooky tale “Trampled Rose". She turns the self-pitying narrator who did who knows what to her former lover into an empathetic figure through the pain in her voice. Plant understands enough to stay out of the way except provide a vocal accent here and there. The other songs, which include two Gene Clark compositions, an obscure Everly Brothers rocker, a straight-up Mel Tillis love song, a weepy Townes Van Zandt ode and other assorted tasty gems, juxtapose together nicely so that one never knows what will follow next.

Plant began his foray into the musical history books back in the late '60s when, for the most part, country and rock and roll seemed to be as diametrically opposed as the proverbial hawks and doves they represented in terms of the Vietnam War that was going on. What passes for mainstream country music on today’s radio would have been called rock and roll back in the day because of its heavy use of drums and bass, salacious lyrics, and snarky attitudes. Krauss’ folk-bluegrass style evokes a simpler time before the “turbulent decade". Somehow, this unusual combination of genre singers works. The melding of Plant’s hard rock vocals and Krauss’ sweet sound requires them both to stretch their talents in unexpected ways. The new album’s triumph lies in the fact that they both seem to do this so effortlessly.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.