Well, this is an expected joy. Fourteen years on from the hugely popular ‘Raising Sand’, which garnered 6 Grammy Awards, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss have finally reunited with a stunning new record ‘Raise the Roof’.
Prior to the release of their first collaboration, there was an air of anticipation that the rock god and the queen of bluegrass might produce something different, and of quality. Those hopes were greatly exceeded by an album of rare beauty. The two preeminent artists have finally found themselves working again together and this album is – if anything – even better than its illustrious predecessor.
Joined again by T-Bone Burnett at the helm, the trio has assembled the finest musical craftspeople in Nashville and beyond. Included are Marc Ribot, Buddy Miller, and the mighty David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. Together, they have conjured a second, quiet masterpiece.
Similar to the first album, the net has been cast far and wide for source material. British folk legends Bert Jansch and Anne Briggs have their work covered along with songs from the pens of Merle Haggard, Allen Toussaint, and The Everly Brothers. Randy Weeks’ ‘Can’t Let Go’ is probably previously best known from Lucinda Williams’ splendid version.
The originals have been deconstructed and lovingly rebuilt layer by layer, and topped with glorious vocals from Plant and Krauss. Usually ones takes the lead, while the other lays down a harmonious background.
The opening ‘Quattro’ is transformed from Calexico’s pulsating and brass-driven rendition into a much quieter declaration of intent. The bounce and drive of The Everly Brothers’ ‘The Price Of Love’, and indeed Bryan Ferry’s ’70s cover, is replaced by a much more sinister tone, led by Alison’s Krauss heavenly and engrossing voice.
Plant has never sounded as lovelorn or bereft as he does on ‘Go Your Way’. ‘Can’t Let Go’ is a real toe-tapper featuring Ribot on guitar, and Hidalgo on Mexican jarana. It is as loud as Plant and Krauss get.
There are 12 tracks here, each a beautifully crafted and cut little gem. The only original to the project is ‘High And Lonesome’ – a co-write between Plant and Burnett, which merges in seamlessly to the high-quality material around it.
Like so many country, Americana classics, it’s drenched in melancholia and tales of love lost. Yet, as soon as the record is over, there is an irresistible urge to play it again. It’s an album of great beauty with Plant and Krauss producing some of their finest work in years. The voices blend, develop, and embellish the others’.
Surely, a third album is now required to complete an outstanding trilogy of heartbreak.