Monday, August 12, 2013
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: "Please Read the Letter"
For my money, when it comes to unusual collaborations, it doesn't get a whole lot more unusual -- or, at the very least, "unexpected" -- than Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Yes, true enough that Plant has done some fairly eclectic stuff throughout the course of his post-Zeppelin career, but few could have foreseen his joining forces with the queen of modern bluegrass, Alison Krauss.
Ultimately, it's T-Bone Burnett who oversaw the making of their 2007 album, Raising Sand, but Plant and Krauss first joined up for a duet on a Leadbelly song in 2004 when Leadbelly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When that went well, the two of them began discussing an album, and it was Krauss who brought in Burnett, having worked with him on his soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?
With the help of Burnett's expert production, Raising Sand works beautifully. Plant and Krauss come from different worlds, but clearly have much in common when it comes to music sensibilities. Their voices, Plant's now mellowed with age and Krauss's already angelic voice now truly a thing of wonder, complement each other perfectly throughout the album. And among all the excellent songs on the album, "Please Read the Letter" is the one on which they (arguably) work together best of all. Interestingly, as the album is full of covers, it's also the only song that either of them had a hand in writing -- composed by Plant and Jimmy Page, it originally appeared on that duo's 1998 album, Walking into Clarksdale. But it might as well have been written with Krauss in mind, as this version easily surpasses the original.
There was talk of a second album from these two, but apparently that is on hold after a false start in the studio a couple of years back. Whether that ever sees its way through to completion is an unknown, but until then there is always Raising Sand.