In late 2007, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss released Raising Sand. What an album. I remember it well – the release and early years of playing it, I mean. The album is still with me now. A forever favourite. A modern classic that feels like it was beamed in from another time entirely.
I was working in the local Borders store and we playlisted just a handful of albums. And slowly killed them. Norah Jones. Diana Krall. Adele. That sort of thing. We had a whole weekend of playing one album only – whatever Diana Krall’s latest record was. It took me a few years to be able to listen to artists like Norah and Krall again. But one album Borders couldn’t kill was Raising Sand. The record is just too good.
I was already on board with Krauss – the albums she made with Union Station, particularly New Favorite and Lonely Runs Both Ways – oh, and right in between those there was the killer live album, just called, um Live, these albums were all utterly brilliant. What a voice. And what playing. What songs. What choices.
And Robert Plant…well, I’d been collecting up his solo albums since becoming a Led Zeppelin fan in my teens. And I reckon the real turning point in his solo career was 2002’s Dreamland – a mix of (mostly) covers and a few originals. I love a lot of what he did before that but Dreamland ushers in the sound and feel of Plant with the Led Zeppelin monkey firmly off his back. And everything he’s made since then has been so close to perfect that, well, frankly it’s just rude to count.
Raising Sand, though. That must have turned a few Plant fans on to Krauss, a few Krauss fans on to Plant and a few people that loved all sorts of Americana music maybe learned about both artists, or simply heard them in a new light. It’s that odd record that sold well, won awards, got rave reviews, and it’s still good. It’s great.
And if they had released volume two the next year, I’d have bought it and probably loved it.
But they didn’t.
There was a tour. And then they went back to making music on their own. More good music too. Big fan of Krauss’ Windy City. And that’s probably one of the lesser efforts in her catalogue. But her voice is just so good. And her intentions with a song so pure. Big fan of everything Plant has released since Dreamland, both Carry Fire and Lullaby…and The Ceaseless Roar were perfect. Sublime. Oh, and there was a wee podcast Plant co-hosted where he shrugs off his back-catalogue and unpicks favourite songs. It’s charming, lovely and very subtly thrilling. He also played a blinder of a gig here and I got to see it!
So the years slipped by and there wasn’t ever a Raising Sand 2. There were reports that the duo had in fact got together and recorded a few songs a couple of years after their massive Grammys grab. But they didn’t care for the results so shelved the project. I respect that integrity.
Then earlier this year, news of a new Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album, just 14 years after their first collaboration. I am not trying to be too dramatic when I say that in 2021’s largely shit news, the announcement of Raise The Roof really was something.
You can listen to it. Perhaps you already have. What a line-up of songs and musicians. The dream team all back together. T-Bone Burnett back in the producer’s chair. Jay Bellerose (Aimee Mann, Joe Henry, Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin) is one of my favourite drummers of the last two decades. A magic touch. He was one of the drivers of Raising Sand. He’s back behind the wheel for another spin.
And it’s a guitarist’s wet dream with Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot from the jazz world mingling with David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and Buddy Miller (also on Raising Sand) who move between country, rock and all things Americana so fluidly that it’s almost silly to even try to pigeonhole them in any of the genres.
Raise The Roof kicks off with a re-working of a Calexico song before moving through tracks associated with such hallmarks of quality as Lucinda Williams, Merle Haggard, Geeshie Wiley, Bert Jansch, The Everly Brothers and Maria Muldaur. But you won’t instantly recognise a lot of them. Because Plant and Krauss are expert song coverers and conjurers, they know how to make any song their own. And here we’re dealing in double powers.
So, this is just to say that one of the albums I’ve most anticipated in 2021, one of the records I cannot wait to curl up with and try to actually crawl inside, is here. And it’s instantly gorgeous and warm and inviting, whilst also being so thoroughly mysterious and carrying many secrets.
Music collecting, music buying, music listening, has always been about hoping for the musical equivalent of a hug. Raise The Roof promises plenty of cuddles on the couch. It’ll light your way and warm the cockles of your heart; ventricles tied up with the heartstrings on offer in these love letters.