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CD Review: Robert Plant-Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand”

Robert Plant-Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand”

We’re sure that anyone who has heard about the new Robert Plant-Alison Krauss album, “Raising Sand,’’ has already been through the “wow, what a strange pairing” phase of the former frontman of legendary ’70s behemoth Led Zeppelin and the darling songbird of bluegrass. We admit we were a little taken aback when we first heard about the pairing but are not surprised at how natural they sound together.

Allow us one more aside before we get to the music on this mesmerizing album.

Isn’t it telling that the musicians of the group that influenced future generations of heavy metal bands are performing in such styles as blues, bluegrass and roots music. Plant’s former bandmate, bassist John Paul Jones, is an accomplished mandolin player and has played with the likes of Gillian Welch and members of Nickel Creek. And guitarist Jimmy Page has also dabbled in a variety styles through the years. It makes one appreciate the musicianship on those great Zeppelin albums even more.

As for “Raising Sand’’ – filled with cover songs by Tom Waits, Gene Clark, Doc Watson and Townes Van Zandt, among others – it takes Plant and Krauss out of their usual roles and challenges them. For Plant, singing harmony is something, he has said, is foreign to him. Krauss actually sings songs from a man’s perspective (on the rocking “Let Your Loss Be YourLesson’’). But the true beauty is how their voices mesh.

In the opener, “Rich Woman,’’ their voices, side by side meld in slinky perfection. On Sam Phillips’ “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,’’ Krauss’ gorgeous voice plays gently against Plant’s harmonies.

What makes this album unique is that it is not an Alison Krauss album with guest appearance by Robert Plant or vice versa. This is a duo album, ably guided by the legendary producer T. Bone Burnett, who pushes all the right buttons to bring out the combined beauty in both voices.

The pace picks up on the Everly Brothers’ “Gone Gone Gone (Done Me Wrong).’’ The ’50s beat fits nicely with Plant’s lead vocal. He even offers a low-wattage bit of his signature Zeppelin yelping.

Love song “Please Read the Letter,” written by Plant, Page and others, is likely the single from the album. The two voices mesh together, with Krauss adding some exquisite harmonies.

Every song on the album sounds different. Guitar picking comes and goes, an organ plays gently in the background as Krauss caresses Tom Waits’ “Trampled Rose.’’

Plant has fun with “Fortune Teller,’’ which includes some effects-heavy guitar and handclaps. There’s some fuzzy guitar on the Bayou-crawling “Nothin’.’’ And there’s jaunty fun to be had on the women-done-me-wrong song “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson’’ sung by Krauss.

The album ends with Doc Watson’s bluegrass ballad “Your Long Journey.’’ It’s really amazing how well Plant’s harmony fits into this Krauss-territory song. He hits all the right notes.

That’s what makes this album so much fun to listen to. Two artists, from completely different backgrounds, find common ground in each song and make them unique.

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