By Todd Lavoie
Bet you didn’t see this one coming. I sure as hell didn’t, not even in my wildest music-nerd tag-team reveries. Yep, I might’ve floated off into la-la land over the what-ifs and fancy-thats of pairing such unlikelies as PJ Harvey/Del tha Funkee Homosapien or Dolly Parton/Spiritualized or even Bryan Ferry/CocoRosie, but somehow I’d never gotten around to scratchin’ my noggin over what would happen if Robert Plant and Alison Krauss ended up in the same studio for a patch of time. Somehow a Neko Case/D’Angelo collab seems like a perfectly reasonable expectation from your humble Guardian blogger, but a meet-up between the sweetest voice in bluegrass-pop and Mr. Banshee-Wail himself? Ah, that’s just crazy.
Or is it? Call it a lark, call it a sign of the apocalypse, call it a coup for the rest of us, but one of the greatest who’da thunks of our time has arrived: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss recently released Raising Sand (Rounder), and it’s breathtaking. No kidding. It’s almost as if they’ve always worked together – yep, it’s that good.
Much of the credit should be given to producer T-Bone Burnett, he of the miracle sepia-tone touch, the man behind the rustic charms and warm glows of Gillian Welch’s Revival (Acony), Elvis Costello’s King of America (Columbia), and the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack (Mercury). (And no, don’t let that last one put you off. Sure, maybe you too found yourself maxed-out on the banjo-and-holler-fest after every single coffeehouse and café played the sweet holy hell outta that thing back in 2000 and 2001, but enough time has passed to be able to listen again with a fresh pair of ears. Go on, give it a play. It really is a marvel.)