Robert and Alison together at last. Who would have thought it could be this perfect?
Chris Jones 2007-10-19
What on paper looks mis-matched can often be utterly right. Raising Sand has to be one of the best ever examples of this. Most people would have bet on Plant’s ex-band mate, John Paul Jones, as being the one to have forged this big league bluegrasss pairing. After all he's worked with Chris Thile and Nickel Creek as well as Uncle Earl, and plays a mean mandolin himself. But no, it's the grizzled, leonine king of c*ck rock who gets to get up-close and personal with the Union Station legend. And thank goodness it was, because Raising Sand has to be one of the releases of the year.
The first thing you notice about Raising Sand is how the pair's vocals compliment each other. Krauss’ honey-sweet chords can be saccharine on her own work at times, but here she's balanced by the mature grain of Plant's almost whispered delivery. On Killing The Blues or Gene Clark’s "Polly Come Home" they nudge up against each other, buoyed up by Greg Leisz’s floating pedal steel. And this from a man reknowned for going ‘baybeeee, baybeee’. Phew...
The selection of songs proves to be just as inspired as the pairing. With material by the Everlys ("Gone, Gone Gone"), Townes van Zant ("Nothin’") and even one from Plant’s last collaboration with Jimmy Page ("Please Read The Letter" – completely improved from its original incarnation) it would be hard to go that wrong, but the best of an embarrassment of riches has to be Krauss’ rendition of Tom Waits "Trampled Rose". Spellbinding doesn’t even come close to describing this.
The album’s other main star has to be T Bone Burnett. His production adds a veneer of authenticity and his choice of musicians is spot on at every turn. Marc Ribot (guitar) along with Dennis Crouch, Mike Seeger, Jay Bellerose, Norman Blake, Greg Leisz, Patrick Warren, and Riley Baugus make this a stunning, dark, brooding collection, comparable in tone to Daniel Lanois' masterful job on Dylan's Time Out Of Mind. It captures a gothic southern vibe effortlessly.
Hearing Krauss emote so bluesily on tracks like "Rich Woman" is a revelation, while her coruscating fiddle on "Nothin'" is rawer than you’d ever expect to hear from such a pillar of the new bluegrasss community. Raising Sand is proof that even with such dynamite raw material sometimes things really do add up to far more than the sum of their parts. Superb, in every way…