Plant and Krauss: A most curious collaboration
By Brian Mansfield, Special for USA TODAY
When Robert Plant and Alison Krauss decided to make an album together, even the two singers weren't sure what it might sound like.
"Alison's got one of the most amazing voices on the planet," says Plant, 59. "And it's as different from mine as …" He pauses, clearly at a loss for a comparison that conveys the magnitude. "As mine is to hers, you know? We're so radically opposed, so different."
Raising Sand, released this week, pairs a classic rocker who has been known to detour into '50s rock 'n' roll and Middle Eastern music with an angelic-voiced fiddle prodigy who brought a pop sensibility to bluegrass. Full of twilight tremolo and midnight moans, the collaboration turned out to be an artistically successful endeavor.
Both artists wanted it "to be dark and meaningful and have substance," says Krauss, 36. "Now, how we were going to get to that with both of us was where we were, maybe, foggier."
Krauss is a fan of British blues-rock belters, "but it would have been silly for it to be anything like that," she says. Still, she sounds bluesier than she ever has.
Raising Sand, recorded in Nashville and California with producer T Bone Burnett, taps into shared musical turf. They harmonize on two songs by Byrds co-founder Gene Clark and another pair from the Everly Brothers catalog, but the originals barely hint at the places Plant and Krauss take them. Other songs come from Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Doc Watson and Naomi Neville.
Shortly after the album was mixed, Krauss played it for two friends whose opinions she valued. One turned to the other and said he couldn't compare it to anything he'd heard before. "And I thought, 'Isn't that about the nicest thing you could ever hope to hear?' "
Plant and Krauss initially sang together at a Leadbelly tribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Nashville began buzzing with rumors of a full-scale collaboration shortly after.
What took so long? "We were doing other things which were working," Plant says. In November, he'll reunite for one night in London with his Led Zeppelin bandmates. Krauss had a country hit earlier this year, reworking Missing You with John Waite.
But they're already hinting that Raising Sand might not be a one-time thing.
"This is living music," Plant says. "This can go anywhere. We could make another record next week. We could even write."
Both prefer chasing muses to chasing dollars. "Success has no comparison to inspiration," Krauss says. "This is the stuff that keeps you up at night."
[I bought this CD and all I can say is, it's beautiful! I loved it right away. The tenderness in this music is wonderful. Their voices blend so magically. Great music just to relax by and just get in a nice comfort zone.]