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Good – just not great

Raising Sand
Raising Sand
By Robert Plant | Alison Krauss

Rounder Records: 2007

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This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2007.

It's an intriguing concept, at least on paper: Pair up two of the most distinctive singers of popular music from the last 30 years, but two singers from disparate styles and different eras.

The reality turns out to be something less than one might have imagined from bringing together Robert Plant, he of the shimmering wail that defined the heavy blues of rock legends Led Zeppelin, and Alison Krauss, the angel-voiced bluegrass star who has accrued more Grammys of her own than most labels will ever see.

While there are some lovely moments here, and some truly beautiful music, there are none that approach the kind of transcendence that both Plant and Krauss have created elsewhere. Which, perhaps unfairly, leaves this project feeling a bit flat.

Part of the problem is that the song selection and arrangements veer from Plant's strengths to Krauss', with few of the 13 tracks representing much of a middle ground between them. While Plant does a nice job of toning down his style to blend in with Krauss on the bluegrass, folk and country numbers, she never really seems to find a comfort zones on the rock and blues materials he sings lead on. Her gorgeous high notes only appear on the songs she sings lead on – and then tend to overwhelm his subdued backing vocals.

And so even though their voices harmonize nicely together, there's no sense of the sort of magic fans of both singers were no doubt anticipating when this project was announced.

It's not a bad album, it's actually pretty good. It's just that no one expected "pretty good" results from this pairing.