23 October 2007

It's the harmony, stupid.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss making an album together just might be the most unusual pairing this side of Bing Crosby and David Bowie in the 1970s. And you know what? It works. Damn, it works.

Today saw the release of Raising Sand, a collaboration of bluegrass fiddler Alison (Union Station) Krauss and rock god emeritus Robert (Led something-or-other) Plant. And this afternoon I made a slight detour to Best Buy to relieve them of one of their copies. The album is on Rounder Records, Krauss' label, so it was found in the country section -- admittedly not a part of the store's carpet I tread very often. I enjoy Americana and "modern bluegrass" -- which Krauss' band Union Station can be so-pigeonholed -- but mainstream country is too redneck/NASCAR/Republican for my taste.

This was one time I couldn't get out to the car soon enough, because I was chompin' at the bit to tear into the shrinkwrap and pop in that sucker. Nettiemac was able to score a preview, and already has posted her thoughts, but until about 4:15 this afternoon I had no idea what was about to fill my ears.

As I heard the opening track ("Rich Woman"), my first reaction was "holy shitzu." The harmony. No, it isn't exactly Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Gifted, Black and Decker, but what is? Their two voices blend nicely. The next cut, "Killing the Blues" is another piece of magic.

Track 4 -- "Polly Come Home" -- is, in a word, gorgeous. It has that dark feel which calls to mind a lot of Chris Isaak's music. This early in the game, I think it's my favorite song on here.

"Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" is the 'hit single' -- or, as it's known today -- a 'focus track.' It's catchy and gets your attention, but while I like the song, other cuts trump it. Oh, and the early '60s M-M-M-Mel Tillis tune "Stick With Me Baby" is given a new coat of adhesive on this album. Yeah, I think I will.

About the only track which didn't speak to me was "Through the Morning, Through the Night." Alison has a beautiful voice, but here she's a little over-the-top with the twaaaaaaaang. I like twang when it comes from a pedal-steel guitar. I don't like it when it sounds like half-baked Shania Twang--er, Twain. But just knowing that it's Robert Plant vocalizing with her on here validates the whole exercise.

Seraphim and I had the same reaction: Raising Sand is making a beeline for the "mountain roadtrip" collection. As I was listening, all that was missing was a hearty serving of Appalachia, sauteed with generous amounts of Fall color.

Bolivar, dammit pal, come out of hibernation and give us your review. 'Cuz I know you bought a copy, too.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "What's next? Bruce Cockburn and Britney Spears??" Gleck


nettiemac said...

Told ya. ;-)

I got my copy on lunch hour. I willingly gave up about 20 minutes to fly over to BB and get my own copy. And that's after a solid week of listening to it. I love the sad undertones and minor keys, and the otherworldliness to the whole thing.

"Rich Woman" -- Plant & Krauss over a techno beat, but it WORKS.

"Killing the Blues" -- has haunted me from the first minute.

"Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" -- beautiful and strange and ethereal all in one.

"Polly Come Home" -- from what I have read this week, apparently Plant is a huge Gene Clark fan; that explains #4 & #6. This one is good. Sad and beautiful.

"Gone Gone Gone" -- yeah, it may be the focus track, and I still love it. I even love the Plant Zep-like wails in the middle.

"Through the Morning, Through the Night" -- I can take it more than leave it. It's not my favorite, though.

"Please Read the Letter" -- a nice song.

"Trampled Rose" -- one of the adjectives I think of quite often with this whole CD is haunting. This song is the best example.

"Fortune Teller" -- awesome! I swear I could almost hear this on an old Zep album somewhere.

"Stick With Me Baby" -- this one has grown on me. I tended to ignore this one on the first few listen-throughs, but it's become one I anticipate now.

"Nothing" -- Now this is the one I could take or leave. It hasn't quite grown on me yet. A few more run-throughs and it could.

"Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson" -- have loved this one from the start. Nice to see Alison Krauss rockin' out a little.

"Your Long Journey" -- pure heartbreak in a song. Enough to make you cry.

bolivar said...

Ah, Talmadge - you know me all too well. I bought that CD along with Neil Young's new CD when I was in Jackson, TN on business. After taking care of the "business", I went to Best Buy before I left heading back to Cordova. I saw the unique pairing - I am a big fan of both singers. Two totally different singers, I might add. Made for a very intriguing combo. And IT WORKS! This is a beautiful CD, and there is not a bad track on the CD. I recognized "Please Read the Letter" from the Page/Plant CD "Walking Into Clarksdale". Very hard to tell which version is better - I love both. I would say that my favorite track on the CD is Tom Waits' "Trampled Rose". For me, a top contender for best album released this year.

People love Robert Plant's singing, but for me, I don't think he will ever get, being a singer first and foremost, the respect he deserves as a MUSICIAN. He is truly phenomenal, and he never ceases to amaze me.