October 18, 2007

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Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand
Rounder Records, Oct. 23
In which Robert Plant maintains his 5.0 grade average in getting old. He did the American roots thing before with Led Zeppelin — the lyrical structure of “Gallows Pole” was straight out of Abe Lincoln’s time — and he’s back into it again, hooking up with bluegrass star Alison Krauss for this guilty pleasure (the screaming ’70s Plant gave way to the restrained ’80s-rocker of his solo projects, hence a collab of this sort shouldn’t come as a shock at this stage). Producer T Bone Burnett makes his presence known, but it’s the duo’s fascination with the basics of sound and harmony that propels this beyond simple odd-couple one-off into starkly open-hearted crossover project with instant appeal for — hell, the whole country. “Rich Woman” is a ghostly soft-rocker that finds the pair challenging each other’s softest sides to maintain a boozy but emotionally present vibe, and that’s just for starters. Practically anything on board this one — and it gets diverse, with Krauss’ weird Kit Kat Klub torch on “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” living alongside a couple of done-me-wrong country tearjerkers and Plant’s googly-eyed fever dream “Polly Come Home” — could peg high on the adult-contemporary charts. One wonders what would’ve happened if they’d not done this strictly for yuks. AEric W. Saeger