tue 30/11/2021

Album: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raise the Roof | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raise the Roof

Album: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raise the Roof

Brilliant formula still makes for gold

Do it again: Plant and Krauss recapture their old magic

The collaboration of Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and producer T-Bone Burnett produced a masterpiece Raising Sand in 2011. Once again, and in spite of rumours about the artists falling out, they have returned with the same winning formula.

With impeccable taste and a posse of some of the best musicians in the USA, they sail their way through a gloriously varied selection of country and blues classics. Plant and Krauss have voices that match: each of them capable of switching from raucous to soulful, from seductively sentimental to energetic calls to the dance. The best harmony singing has always been described as sweet, and these two singers hit the spot many times over. The style made famous by the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers and the Everlys, is never honey-sweet because it has an edge, unlike the pedal steel, which makes a single but beautifully played appearance on the slow ballad “Going Where the Lonely Go”.

The repertoire, in which blues, country and bluegrass melt into each, reflects the way in which these different genres cross racial barriers and nourished each other to and fro. The musicians are, as on the first collaboration, chosen counter-intuitively. Guitarists Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell are better known for edgy jazz and avant-garde rock, although both can play just about anything. Here they explore all manner of guitar sounds, many of them surprising and enchanting, and always at the service of the other musicians, the singers and T-Bone Burnett's instantly recognisable style.

Burnett has a knack of taking tradition and breathing new life into it, never attempting to mimic the Sun Studios sound, for instance, but nevertheless paying homage to the freshness that characterised the greatest rockabilly sides. There is nostalgia here, but implicit rather than corny or kitsch, and sounding new at every turn. His treatment of various drum sounds, handled with tremendous subtlety and energy by Jay Bellerose, is totally his own. There is an almost mysterious aura that is simultaneously ghostly and crystal-clear. Burnett works with a bewitchingly personal combination of instinct and taste.

The deservedly renowned producer is a master of atmosphere: reverb used in many different ways is a large part of it, but there is also an almost claustrophobic feel as if the musicians were not playing in 2021, but in some imagined and timeless juke joint in heaven, soul pouring out of every note, and rollicking rhythms that keep the music on the move, whether fast or slow.  All the tracks reveal surprises and are a pleasure to hear, not least a brilliant re-working of the haunting blues song by Geeshie Wiley, “Last Kind Words”.  The album is in many ways similar to its predecessor, but when something works so well, why change it? Take a listen – you will not be disappointed.

 

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