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Hard rock frontman and
bluegrass chanteuse make
beautiful music together

Robert Plant / Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
(Rounder Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 20, 2007

Review by Tony Bonyata

Sometimes it takes the seemingly oddest of pairings to come up with something truly wonderful, and that's exactly what former Led Zeppelin screamer Robert Plant and bluegrass chanteuse Alison Krauss have done on their recent full-length collaboration entitled Raising Sand.

While Plant's widely publicized recent reformation with Led Zeppelin last week in London with co-founders Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, along with original drummer John Bonham's son Jason, marked a universally lauded return for the singer to his early thundering hard-rock roots, his work here with Krauss is gentle, thought-provoking and, at times, even downright spooky - as if conjuring up the spirits of both civil war soldiers and turn-of-the-century Appalachian mountain dwellers alike.

There are more than just a couple of reasons why this album works as well as it does. What first jumps out of the speakers is the wonderful chemistry between Plant's soothing vocal delivery and the angelic voice of Krauss. Songs such as the lilting "Killing The Blues" and the mountain folk of "Your Long Journey" showcase these two vocal powerhouses as an even more powerful duo, as they not only have a wonderful sense of give-and-take with their vocal parts, but also know exactly when to join together as one - like two songbirds on a sunny Spring morning.

Perhaps the most surprising fact in the success of this effort, however, is that, while billed as a duo, there are really three principles in this collaboration. Producer T Bone Burnett not only handpicked this wealth of lesser-known cover songs from American artists such as Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, The Everly Brothers, Sam Phillips and others, but he also added his magic touch to both production and arrangements on these thirteen tracks - a magic touch similar to his production work on the two outstanding film soundtracks "O Brother ,Where Art Thou?" and "Cold Mountain" (both which also featured Krauss performing). For many of these numbers Burnett has created an often-haunting soundscape for Plant and Krauss' lighter-than-air harmonies to float effortlessly in and out of. But it's not only Plant that Burnett has successfully taken out of his comfort zone on some of these sparser compositions, but Krauss as well, as proven on the gypsy folk of Sam Phillip's "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" along with the more rocking version of the Everly's "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" and Tom Petty's right-hand man Mike Campbell's "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson," where Krauss takes the lead on this high-kicking roadhouse rocker.

Whether in their element or out, Plant and Krauss - along with producer Burnett - have made a lasting effort of music that, while often steeped in the past, is also surprisingly contemporary and timeless.

Watch Robert Plant & Alison Krauss -
Duet for Raising Sand

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