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Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Raising Sand

If you pay any attention at all to pop music, you’ve probably heard of this album, an unlikely collaboration between the former singer of Led Zeppelin and the queen of pop bluegrass. I never expected to hear it, much less to like it. I never cared much for Led Zeppelin, and what I’ve heard of Alison Krauss’s music was of very high quality but a little on the bland side to my taste.

But something caused me to listen to the samples at Amazon, and they sounded quite good. And I mentioned it to a friend who had bought it, and he made me a copy, and now I’m going to have to buy the dang thing. It’s really a pretty great album.

I think the magic ingredient is T-Bone Burnett. My friend Robert said years ago that Burnett’s name on an album as producer meant that it was probably worth hearing (come to think of it, maybe that’s why I checked it out), and that still seems to be true. Burnett has a way of getting a sound that’s very American-rootsy but with a hint (or more than a hint) of mystery, tasteful but not slick. I expect he also had a hand in choosing the songs here, which range from good to great. The voices of Plant and Krauss work together beautifully. Here’s one of the highlights:

I’ve heard this song before, sung by Chris Smither, and it was good (like everything by Chris Smither), but this is stunning.

My only reservation about the album is that some of the songs seem a little weak or a little out of place. For instance, the first track is a killer arrangement and performance, but the lyrics consist mostly of repetitions of “She got the money and I got the honey.” The heavy songs are quite heavy—especially Townes Van Zandt’s almost unbearably bleak “Nothin’”—and need a little contrast, but several of the lighter songs here don’t really seem like the right ones. But they’re very well done.

It looks like you can stream the whole album here. If you haven’t heard it, you should.



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