Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Raising Sand

When Kevin first heard that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss were recording an album together, he was afraid to tell me because he thought my "head would explode." I admit to being prone to bouts of extreme excitement, so his theory was not completely unfounded. But if he had known that producer T Bone Burnett (of Oh Brother Where Art Thou fame to name just one of his fine projects) was involved, he would have *really* been concerned.

So last night after dinner, I put an apple pie in the oven, sat down with my headphones and did something I haven't done in years...listened to an entire album, start to finish, without doing *anything* else. I didn't even play my Scrabble game on the computer or clean up around the house. I just sat still and listened.

Raising Sand is beautiful. I could hardly expect less from two of my favorite living singers on the planet (ok, ok, I'll try to keep the hyperbole to a minimum, but it's going to be hard). Here are some highlights. The links will lead you to Amazon's new download system that is thankfully and finally DRM free...meaning that unlike, oh say, iTunes, you can listen to the song on any device, program, application, burn CDs, or do whatever you want with it because you bought it and it's yours. Thank you, Amazon. (I'm now stepping down from my DRM soapbox.)

One more note: T Bone Burnett chose most of the songs for this album, and they are interesting choices. I've noted the songwriters in parentheses here:

Killing the Blues (John Prine Rolly Salley): Achingly beautiful. The kind of song that I want to put on repeat and just let it wash over me. Maybe my favorite song on the album...though, really, it's too soon to tell. :)

Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
(Sam Phillips): When I heard this one, I couldn't get over how much the melody sounded like a Sam Phillips melody. And then I found out, happily, that it *is* a Sam Phillips melody (since Sam & T Bone are married, that's no big surprise). Alison Krauss's voice is strangely well suited to this quirky style, and using Robert Plant's voice as a texture in the background was a brilliant move. Highly recommended.

Gone Gone Gone (Everly Brothers): This one's upbeat in a very cool Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry kind of way. This is the first time that Robert Plant really lets loose a little, and even still, he's pretty restrained. This is the one that will probably get the most play at our house.

Stick With Me Baby (Mel Tillis): A simple, solid, sweet pop tune.

Nothin' (Townes Van Zandt): At this point in the album, I was really longing for some noise, some edge, some Robert Plant flair. And "Nothin'" delivers with some nice electric guitar noise & Robert Plant on vocals. I love the way Alison Krauss's violin floats through the distortion in this song.

In the end, the only song I wasn't crazy about was Trampled Rose, and I'm willing to give that one some time.

Also, just to be picky, I found myself wishing there were a couple more Robert Plant moments. We get a taste at the end of Gone Gone Gone, and at the end of Plant's own song Please Read the Letter, but I could have done with a little bit more. But then, I can *always* do with a little more Robert Plant. Raising Sand is such a delicate, well-crafted album and I can imagine that they didn't want to overwhelm it with too much "signature" style.

Here's an interesting article from the New York Daily News about the project.

If you have a Rhapsody subscription (the best thing since Netflix), you can listen to the whole album for free (well, as part of the subscription anyway).

And there is an official website that is supposed to be going up this week. You can bet that I'll be checking it twice daily to see if it's ready.

How about you? Have you heard it? Did you like it? I'm dying to know what other people think about it.


PMSred said...

Killing the Blues was covered by John Prine, but, it was written by Rolly Salley

Josephine Cameron said...

Hey thanks! I had no idea. I'll have to check out the original original now.

Anonymous said...

Prine did an early version, but the best version of Killing the Blues belongs to Chris Smither...hear it on "Live as I'll Ever Be"...Rolly said so himself!

Josephine Cameron said...

If you have Rhapsody, you can find a couple of Chris Smither's versions here. I'm still partial to Alison Kraus' voice on the song, but the Chris Smither version (especially the 6 minute version) is *absolutely* lovely. Thanks for pointing me to it. What a gorgeous song!

Anonymous said...

i have an lp from the 70's i think, not sure what the title or artist is but it says. Woodstock Mountains More Music From Mud Acres
rounder 3018. roly salley singing an d playing guitar, it is by far the best in my opinion, so much more soul in it then any other version i have heard. listened to most on rhapsody, this is on there also.