Raising Sand

Raising Sand

4.1 73
by Robert Plant, Alison Krauss
     
 

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There are duet albums, and there are duo albums; the shimmering Raising Sand, which unites Robert Plant with Alison Krauss, is emphatically the latter. There's no coy interplay between these two stars, no he-said-she-said routines. Instead, the album presents two artists laboring creatively (and producer T Bone Burnett surely plays a big role, as well) to

Overview

There are duet albums, and there are duo albums; the shimmering Raising Sand, which unites Robert Plant with Alison Krauss, is emphatically the latter. There's no coy interplay between these two stars, no he-said-she-said routines. Instead, the album presents two artists laboring creatively (and producer T Bone Burnett surely plays a big role, as well) to create a third, distinct thing. The magic of this encounter is that it draws the two out of their comfort zones: Imagine America's bluegrass sweetheart harmonizing on Benny Spellman's New Orleans R&B classic "Fortune Teller," or the Led Zep frontman wrapping his rock-god pipes around Mel Tillis's "Stick With Me, Baby." Or imagine either of them fronting an eerie, Eastern European-flavored treatment of Sam Philips's "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us." Yes, there are plenty of surprises here. Not the least is the simpatico blend of the principals' voices. Krauss is as luminous as ever, finding new colors for her exquisitely controlled instrument, but Plant amazes with his low-key, knowing, and indeed humble performance. Acoustic settings aside, Raising Sand is not "The Battle of Evermore" stretched over 13 tracks. Keynotes come from later in Plant's career -- the haunting, Gene Clark-penned "Polly Come Home" is sonic kin to Plant's mid-'80s hit "Big Log," while the preponderance of rockabilly flavor suggests a midlife reminiscence of the Honeydrippers (see their churning version of the Everlys' "Gone Gone Gone"). The artfully off-the-cuff production by Burnett gains additional earthiness from ringers such as Marc Ribot and Mike Seeger, but it's hard to think about the instrumentation when Plant's and Krauss's voices are dancing together in close harmony.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
What seems to be an unlikely pairing of former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant and bluegrass superstar Alison Krauss is actually one of the most effortless-sounding duos in modern popular music. The bridge seems to be producer T-Bone Burnett and the band assembled for this outing: drummer Jay Bellerose (who seems to be the session drummer in demand these days), upright bassist Dennis Crouch, guitarists Marc Ribot and Burnett, with Greg Leisz playing steel here and there, and a number of other guest appearances. Krauss, a monster fiddle player, only does so on two songs here. The proceedings are, predictably, very laid-back. Burnett has only known one speed these last ten years, and so the material chosen by the three is mostly very subdued. This doesn't make it boring, despite Burnett's production, which has become utterly predictable since he started working with Gillian Welch. He has a "sound" in the same way Daniel Lanois does: it's edges are all rounded, everything is very warm, and it all sounds artificially dated. Sam Phillips' "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" is a centerpiece on this set. It has her fingerprints all over it. This tune, with its forlorn, percussion-heavy tarantella backdrop, might have come from a Tom Waits record were it not so intricately melodic -- and Krauss' gypsy swing fiddle is a gorgeous touch. There is an emptiness at the heart of longing particularly suited to Krauss' woodsy voice, and Plant's harmony vocal is perfect, understated yet ever-present. It's the most organically atmospheric tune on the set -- not in terms of production, but for lyric and compositional content. Stellar. Plant's own obsession with old rockabilly and blues tunes is satisfied on the set's opener, "Rich Woman," by Dorothy LaBostrie and McKinley Miller. It's all swamp, all past midnight, all gigolo boasting. Krauss' harmony vocal underscores Plant's low-key crooned boast as a mirror, as the person being used and who can't help it. Rollie Salley's "Killing the Blues" is all cough syrup guitars, muffled tom toms, and played-in-bedroom atmospherics. Nonetheless, the two vocalists make a brilliant song come to life with their shared sorrow, and it's as if the meaning in the tune actually happens from the bitter irony in the space between the two vocalists as the whine of Leisz's steel roots this country song in the earth, not in the white clouds reflected in its refrain. There are a pair of Gene Clark tunes here as well. Plant is a Clark fan, and so it's not a surprise, but the choices are: "Polly Come Home" and "Through the Morning, Through the Night" come from the second Dillard & Clark album from 1969 with the same title as the latter track. The first is a haunting ballad done in an old-world folk style that Clark would have been proud of. It reflects the same spirit and character as his own White Light album, but with Plant and Krauss, the spirit of Celtic-cum-Appalachian style that influenced bluegrass, and the Delta blues that influenced rock, are breached. "Through the Morning, Through the Night" is a wasted country love song told from the point of view of an outlaw. Plant gets his chance to rock -- a bit -- in the Everly Brothers' "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)." While it sounds nothing like the original, Plant's pipes get to croon and drift over the distorted guitars and a clipped snare; he gets to do his trademark blues improv bit between verses. To be honest, it feels like it was tossed off and, therefore, less studied than anything else here: it's a refreshing change of pace near the middle of the disc. It "rocks" in a roots way. "Please Read the Letter" is written by Plant, Page Charlie Jones, and Michael Lee. Slow, plodding, almost crawling, Krauss' harmony vocal takes it to the next step, adds the kind of lonesome depth that makes this a song whispered under a starless sky rather than just another lost love song. Waits and Kathleen Brennan's "Trampled Rose," done shotgun ballad style, is, with the Phillips tune, the most beautiful thing here. Krauss near the top of her range sighs into the rhythm. Patrick Warren's toy piano sounds more like a marimba, and his pump organ adds to the percussive nature of this wary hymn from the depths. When she sings "You never pay just once/To get the job done," this skeletal band swells. Ribot's dobro sounds like a rickety banjo, and it stutters just ahead of the bass drum and tom toms in Bellerose's kit. Naomi Neville's "Fortune Teller" shows Burnett at his best as a producer. He lets Plant's voice come falling out of his mouth, staggering and stuttering the rhythms so they feel like a combination of Delta blues, second-line New Orleans, and Congo Square drum walk. The guitar is nasty and distorted, and the brush touches with their metallic sheen are a nice complement to the bass drums. It doesn't rock; it struts and staggers on its way. Krauss' wordless vocal in the background creates a nice space for that incessant series of rhythms to play to. The next three tunes are cagey, even for this eclectic set: Mel Tillis' awesome ballad "Stick with Me Baby" sounds more like Dion & the Belmonts on the street corner on cough syrup and meaning every word. There is no doo wop, just the sweet melody falling from the singers' mouths like an incantation with an understated but pronounced rhythm section painting them singing together in front of a burning ash can. This little gem is followed by a reading of Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin'" done in twilight Led Zeppelin style. It doesn't rock either. It plods and drifts, and crawls. Krauss' fiddle moans above the tambourine, indistinct and distorted; low-tuned electric guitars and the haunted, echoing banjo are a compelling move and rescue the melody from the sonic clutter -- no, sonic clutter is not a bad thing. The weirdest thing is that while it's the loudest tune on the set, it features Norman Blake on acoustic guitar with Burnett. This is what singer/songwriter heavy metal must sound like. And it is oh-so-slow. The final part of the trilogy of the weird takes place on Little Milton Campbell's "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson," a jangly country rocker in the vein of Neil Young without the weight and creak of age hindering it. Krauss is such a fine singer, and she does her own Plant imitation here. She has his phrasing down, his slippery way of enunciating, and you can hear why this was such a great match-up. The band can play backbone slip rockabilly shuffle with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs, and they do it here. It's a great moment before the close. The haunting, old-timey "Your Long Journey by A.D. and Rosa Lee Watson," with its autoharp (played by Mike Seeger no less), Riley Baugus' banjo, Crouch's big wooden bass, and Blake's acoustic guitar, is a whispering way to send this set of broken love songs off into the night. These two voices meld together seamlessly; they will not be swallowed even when the production is bigger than the song. They don't soar, they don't roar, they simply sing songs that offer different shades of meaning as a result of this welcome collaboration.
New York Times - Jon Pareles
On Raising Sand, the improbable collaboration between Led Zeppelin's lead singer and the sweet-voiced string-band innovator, there's a third factor: the producer T Bone Burnett, who places their voices in an unhurried down-home realm somewhere between the 1950s and eternity.
Billboard - Mikael Wood
The 13-track collection finds the two singers applying their considerable interpretative skills to a shrewdly selected set of American roots-music gems.... The sound is dark and groove-oriented, with rich guitar work by Marc Ribot and Norman Blake.
Boston Globe - Sarah Rodman
"Raising Sand" is the stuff of which music lovers' dreams are made: an unexpected collision of two distinct but complementary worlds that transcend the sum of their parts to create something unique and mesmerizing.
USA Today - Ken Barnes
1/2 A subtle, reverb-laden T Bone Burnett production provides the finishing touches on an unlikely collaboration that works like a dream.
Mojo
The most remarkable collaboration since Norah Jones and the Foo Fighters is also one of the best albums of [2007].... The musical relationship between Krauss and Plant is gentle, attentive and respectfully intimate.
Philadelphia Inquirer - Dan DeLuca
1/2 Plant and Krauss' voices twine together effortlessly, and they suffuse everything they sing with mystery. Here's hoping the Zeppelin reunion is this good.
San Francisco Chronicle - Joel Selvin
"Raising Sand" is a haunting and beautiful tour de force.
Blogcritics
Two forces in their own right, Plant and Krauss combine to make something fresh and exciting.
Music Box - John Metzger
Its hypnotic allure is utterly impossible to miss.... The intimate atmospheres that they created are simultaneously chilling and warm, terrifying and lovely, haunting and sensual.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/23/2007
Label:
Rounder / Umgd
UPC:
0011661907515
catalogNumber:
619075
Rank:
22013

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Robert Plant   Primary Artist,Vocals
Alison Krauss   Primary Artist,Fiddle,Vocals
Norman Blake   Acoustic Guitar
Mike Seeger   Autoharp
Marc Ribot   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Dobro,Electric Guitar
T Bone Burnett   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,6-string bass
Dennis Crouch   Bass,Acoustic Bass
Greg Leisz   Pedal Steel Guitar
Patrick Warren   Keyboards,Pump Organ,Toy Piano
Jay Bellerose   Drums
Riley Baugus   Banjo

Technical Credits

Mel Tillis   Composer
Gene Clark   Composer
Jimmy Page   Composer
Robert Plant   Composer
Tom Waits   Composer
Don Everly   Composer
Phil Everly   Composer
Kathleen Brennan   Composer
T Bone Burnett   Producer
Milton Campbell   Composer
Sam Phillips   Composer
Rowland Salley   Composer
Townes Van Zandt   Composer
Rosa Lee Watson   Composer
Steven Jurgensmeyer   Art Direction
Mike Piersante   Engineer
Naomi Neville   Composer
Dorothy LaBostrie   Composer
Paul Ackling   Guitar Techician
Jason Wormer   Engineer
Stacy Parrish   Engineer
A.D. Watson   Composer

Customer Reviews

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Raising Sand 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been listening to this ever since it came out. My opinion hasn't so much as changed as it has been burnished -- I honestly feel that I, the listener, am a piece of old tarnished metal, and that these two voices just patiently polished and polished and polished away until they made everything shine. Granted, "Raising Sand" isn't the flashiest thing ever recorded. Both Krauss' "New Favorite" and Plant's "Dreamland" display more fire and energy. But that's not the point here. It's the blending, the stirring, the sanding away and repainting and varnishing and stripping it back ... OK, the metaphors may be getting away from me, but the point is that this album is all about process. It sounds slightly different every time I hear it, and I must be approaching a hundred listenings by now. I can hear their version of "Killing the Blues" six or seven times in a row and pick up nuanced and different inflections every time. One thing about a great vocal duo: There are times you can't quite figure out who's singing lead and who's singing harmony. It's so danged slippery here, so oddly mixed up, that it's just hypnotic. This is an amazing album. But not the kind that hits you on the temple the first time through. Live with it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this album with no preconceived notions on what it would, or should sound like. It had been recommended to me by a close friend who thought I would like it. I was not familiar with Alison Krauss and have never purchased any of Plant's post Zep works (pity on me). I can say that this album is growing on me. I've listened to it twice now, and it strikes a nerve that surprises and comforts and wants to hear more. I love the way their voices coincide with each other. "Please read the Letter" is the seventh song and is the first one where Plant's voice is the more dominate one you hear. Alison's voice is angelic, as Plant is truly capable of, too. Now I'll have to pursue more of Alison's music to become more familiar with her. This is a very "Pretty" album, musically. Don't take it to the gym for a workout, but with morning coffee, and the sun streaming in through the window, this album pleases!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this CD because I heard "Gone, Gone, Gone" and realy enjoyed this performance. I was initially disappointed by the rest of the selections. However, as I listened more and without distractions, I began to appreciate the quality of the whole CD. I didn't think I would like the slow almost morose ballads but now they all just blow me away and I want more. What a great and moving final selection!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think the Barnes and Noble critic got it right in saying that the merging of Plant and Krauss (and T. Bone's production)yields something very new and distinct. Don't buy this CD expecting to hear the Robert Plant you know from Led Zepplin days. His understated performance, blending harmonies with Krauss is not only surprising, the result is sometimes haunting.
Nittany1 More than 1 year ago
Hard to believe that the frontman of the great Zep could blend with the mellow, laid back Alison but boy does it work!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The harmonies of these two were wonderful. Combined with the instrumentals it makes lovely background music for that glass of wine, cozy fire and a good book. I have listened to it many times and enjoy it each time. More bluegrass harmony than rock and roll so for those who want rock they will have to look elsewhere.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Robert Plant fan and this blew me away. It was a very unexpected surprise. Robert Plant and Allison Krauss harmonized so well together and I enjoyed the songs. I don't usually listen to folk/country and I really loved this CD. Bravo to the two of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this CD for my dad for Christmas, but I liked it so much that I ended up making a copy for myself too! Alison Krauss has a beautiful voice. This CD definitely deserves all the nominations and awards it has received.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If there were a "sixth" star to give this album....I would have given it. As a performing blues musician -- and a songwriter, I will be forever haunted by the production of this album. Nice layers, earthy tone, and sweet harmonies make this a spectacular find. I was hypnotized from the first second to the last. I hope there is a sequel to this album..I am floored. When most new music is garbage...something like this comes out and really makes your day.
Ahab More than 1 year ago
One of the best duet albums ever. Really levels Robert out.
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JohnM More than 1 year ago
Being a huge Allison Krauss fan, and enjoying the collaboration between rock and country of late, I was looking forward to this album. I caught the performance at the Grammy awards (excellent song and performance!), and was intrigued by both their accolades and the production of T Bone Burnett. So, a purchase was eminent! The CD is a vast mix of songs and tempos; not all to my liking. For me, the standouts were "Rich Woman" (excellent on all accounts!), "Fortune Teller," "Gone, Gone, Gone," "Stick with me Baby," and a great interpretation of "Please Read The Letter." Other songs I simply pass over as too slow and unenjoyable (but that is one man's opinion!). Also, I did not feel the album partnered the two singers well. Songs are generally one or the other as lead, and there does not seem to be a good sense of mutual collaboration between the two (or at least from what the listener can hear). I missed the real Allison Krauss on this album!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love every track on this CD! I've always loved Robert Plant and of course Alison Kraus is great, but the two together are better than I could ever have imagined. This covers a wide range of styles and I just keep listening to it over and over. Definitely recommended.
Troutgirl More than 1 year ago
It was better than I expected.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I "thought" I loved anything Alison Krauss sings this CD definitely changed my mind. The CD comes across as a battle of two very strong styles. I could not even listen through one playing and will never listen again. VERY disappointed . . .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first heard "Rich Woman" from this cd when I was out cruising in my sports car last summer. I loved the song immediately because it was Robert Plant (anything by him is ACES in my book!) I bought the "Raising Sand" cd a few days later and it has become my favorite cd to this day! I listen to "Raising Sand" almost every day and it NEVER leaves the #1 cd player spot in the house stereo. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss together are just amazing and this cd is a real treat. Granted, it's not the Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin sound, but he's great no matter what he does. Alison Krauss, well, she's just a great singer. What a team! Buy this cd!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this CD when its in a mix of others. There are some great fun songs on it. I don't care for as much when I listen to it all the way through by its self.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As good as it gets! Great work from all involved. This music gets better with each listening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like both artists for what they do in their respective fields of music. With that said I was very disappoited with the 2 together. They both sound as if they are not on the same page. T Bone Bennett tries hard to save this cd with a good production but the bottom line is this cd should be left off your list 2 stars at best
Guest More than 1 year ago
Here are two voices that I certainly would not have put together, but I am glad producer T-Bone Burnett did. Several of the songs on this disc hold you spellbound as each artist delivers a rich and often times haunting performance. My favorite tracks are Gone, Gone, Gone, Rich Woman and the irrepressible Fortune Teller.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best vocal collaboration in last few years. Excellent production. Album of the year!
moochieg More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the cd very much. A good mix of music, and I would definitely recommend.
HubertRK More than 1 year ago
This is exactly the type of music you would hear if you found yourself one night at a roadhouse off a lonesome Texas highway. A roadhouse often visited by gypsies, fallen women, couples on the verge of breaking up, and a trucker who may or may not have killed a man. Which is to say that this album is eerie and sad and warm and all together AMAZING. It's folk and blues and a little rock (natch, it's Robert Plant) but it mostly just defies all the genres because it's so perfect. I love albums that sound like they're telling a story, where each song feels connected to the next. This one feels that way all the way through. I think that has a lot to do with T-Bone Burnette, who produced it and played guitar and bass on it. Most of the songs have that really heart-breaking wobbly bass line that evokes the creepy roadhouse image. Allison Krauss and Robert Plant sound like they come from the same family. Like a father and daughter duet. They sound incredible together. They're so well blended that it's hard to tell sometimes who's taking the lead and who's singing harmony. And the musicianship is some of the best I've heard.