The runaway success of Raising Sand
, Robert Plant's and Alison Krauss' collaboration with producer T-Bone Burnett has been nothing short of bewildering. Not because it isn't a stellar record; it is. But who would have predicted that an album's worth of grimly atmospheric and lush rockabilly/blues/bluegrass duets between the former frontman of Led Zeppelin and one of country music's sweethearts would be one of the breakout hits of 2007, with a Grammy award and platinum sales to show for it? For much of his time as a musician, Plant has been a chameleon. Although his public persona will most likely always be rooted in images of the lemon squeezing/golden god tomfoolery of his Dionysian youth, it bears pointing out that he's spent most of his musical life not being the wailing voice of Zeppelin. In between that band's dissolution and infrequent resurrections, he's gone from exploring 1950s pop to connecting the dots between American blues and African blues with his more recent solo work. He's made appearances at Mali's Festival au Desert not an easy festival to get to and one lacking in rock star amenities and generally behaved like a studious professional musician/music scholar whose cutthroat days of careerism are long over.
Krauss, it turns out, is an ideal partner for the old stag. Thanks to the angelic purity of her voice, she's oftentimes saddled with the image of dewy innocent in the press, a sexless deity who's somehow above the muck of everyday living. On songs like "Please Read the Letter" and "Stick With Me Baby," Krauss' and Plant's voices meld to sinuous, devastating effect, at times recalling the emotional kick of the duets Richard and Linda Thompson sang on their masterpiece album I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. Her voice is still immaculate, but the chemistry between her and Plant is undeniable and teases out new dimensions she's only hinted at before.
Their appearance at Jazz Fest is one of the inaugural performances in their planned world tour in support of the album.
click to enlarge