Since the death of John Bonham in 1980 and the dissolution of Led Zeppelin, all of us Zeppelin fans have wondered and waited what comes next from Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones. After the Page-Plant experiment of the mid 1990s came to a close, Plant retreated to his low-key and low-fi existence, essentially shunning his bombastic past as the front man for the dominant rock band of the 1970s. He has always looked forward with an eye for something different and unique, and he certainly checks that box with his 2007 collaboration with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand”. It is really a three-part collaboration, as producer and guitarist T-Bone Burnett played a lead role in the song selection and creative influence for this record. It was highly acclaimed by critics and won a Grammy for Record of the Year, and while I’m sure it served as a source of frustration for Zep diehards who continued to clamor for a reunion, it was seemingly embraced and enjoyed by most of us as well… me included.
Most of the songs are older covers, dipping into the world of country, rockabilly, blues, and other roads less traveled. The vocal interplay between Plant and Krauss is compelling, with some songs a straight duet, and others serving with one on lead and the other complimenting with harmony backing vocals. My personal favorite has always been the soft and effusively warm song, “Killing the Blues”. Slow and classic in its tempo, the vocals are stunningly beautiful, and it’s hard to even believe this is the same voice who belted out “Black Dog” or “Immigrant Song”.
Other favorites to check out include the sultry “Rich Woman”, and “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)”, which was the lead single and a sassy up-tempo pairing, written by the Everly Brothers. “Please Read the Letter”, which was originally performed by Plant with Jimmy Page a decade before on the “Walking into Clarksdale” album is another great duet, and “Let Loss Be Your Lesson” is a countrified tune with Krauss on lead that evolves into an old school jam. “Your Long Journey”, the last song on the record, is pure bluegrass, and another wonderfully subtle pairing of their voices.
As a Zeppelin fan, if you center yourself on “Whole Lotta Love” and “Communication Breakdown” as the core of your playlist, this may not be your record. However, if you are as equally attracted to “Going to California” or “That’s The Way”, and most certainly “The Battle of Evermore”, then this record should warm your heart and soul as it did mine. Robert Plant’s fierce independence from his “Golden God” legacy is a source of frustration for many of us, but it also serves as a noble and genuinely inspirational slice of artistic integrity and pride. I look forward to catching this duo later this summer with Jim and the Mikes at Red Rocks… you may want to mark your calendar as well.