Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's 'Raise the Roof' is a magical reunion worth the wait

by 24britishtvNov. 18, 2021, 11 p.m. 20
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Fourteen years ago, the unlikely pairing of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and bluegrass icon turned chart whisperer Alison Krauss found themselves with a surprise hit on their hands.

Raising Sand, their album of (mostly) Americana covers made with star producer T-Bone Burnett was an unexpected delight. Plant’s world-weariness and Krauss’s goosebump-inducing tones blended into something wholly magical.

Out of nowhere, it ended up at number two on the Billboard charts and won them six Grammys – beating both Coldplay and Radiohead to album of the year. Anyone who’s discovered this odd couple in the intervening years will have been desperate for a follow up; Raise the Roof turns out to have been worth the wait.

Made up of 11 almost willfully obscure covers and one original song, it’s a more sombre record than its predecessor. The track they wrote together, “High and Lonesome” is close, stuffy and restless, like a humid night in the everglades as Plant’s skittish vocal is shadowed eerily by Krauss’s quiet harmony.

Their voices shouldn’t work together, really: Plant sings like a heartthrob while Krauss’s country lilt comes with layers of pure emotion (see the gentle sorrow of “Going Where the Lonely Go” for a quick four-minute cry).

What I really like about this collection is the darkness Burnett brings out in Krauss and Plant. Where The Everly Brothers’ original version of “The Price Of Love” is a rockin’ harmonica-pop jam, Raise the Roof comes at it with a hypnotic spookiness, lending weight to even the stupidest lyrics (the line “Wine is sweet and gin is bitter” is just about tolerable in this version). The blue of this bluegrass is the deep dark of open water at night.

The two musicians have been sending each other songs back and forth between records, so the story goes, but didn’t click into action until Krauss heard the opening track, Calexico’s “Quattro (The World Drifts In)”.

It’s one of the most intoxicating moments of the album, their prophetic harmonies looking for answers in an unrecognisable world. “World drifts in and the world’s a stranger,” they sing, their voices almost drifting out of the song completely.

Fourteen years later, Plant and Krauss have created a beautifully wrought record that takes from the past to decipher the future.

Stream: Quattro (World Drifts In), Going Where the Lonely Go, The Price of Love

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