At first glance, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss seem like an unlikely pair – Krauss’ sweet, angelic voice exists the opposite of the specter of Plant’s curly-maned rock god character. Yet somehow, when combined, a sound is produced that plunges into new depths, swimming with mysterious harmonies and mixed emotion.
Listeners first witnessed this on Plant and Krauss’ previous record, Sand rising (2007), which won five Grammys, including Album of the Year at the 51st Annual Grammy. The dynamic record fuses country and bluesy rock, producing a collection of strong tracks that set the stage for their latest release, Raise the roof. Their album titles say it all – yes Sand rising caused a spark in the house, Raise the roof blows the top and exceeds all expectations of a second collaboration.
Raise the roof is a collection of 11 covers of songs from the 1930s to early 2000s, as well as an original track co-written by Plant. Although they have chosen a selection of songs to cover with a wide range of sounds and styles, Plant and Krauss use their respective musical backgrounds to integrate their styles and create a cohesive record. Plant, the former singer and frontman of iconic 1970s British rock band Led Zeppelin, is known for his wild stage presence and influential vocal style. When performing with Led Zeppelin, Plant often sang shirtless, whipping his golden locks and singing loudly with emotional indulgence.
Krauss, on the other hand, is an American country and bluegrass singer known for her sweet soprano voice. With the production of four solo albums and work on ten collaborative records, Krauss won 27 Grammys, making her the female artist with the most Grammy awards in the world. Together their vocals produce a complex and dismal sound that mixes a lighter blues with hard rock, creating a perfect combination for exploring themes of lost love and broken hearts on Raise the roof.
A quintessential element of the Plant and Krauss sound in Raise the roof are the eerie and weird qualities that they breathe into their vocals, guitar and percussion. In their debut cover of alternative band Calexico’s “Quattro (World Drifts In)”, the duo transform the original up-tempo guitar into a dark strumming that chills listeners. They also complicate Calexico’s voice, singing in complex harmonies that produce mysterious chords. Plant and Krauss also experiment with darker changes on different covers – in their cover of “The Price of Love” by the Everly Brothers, they pick up the quick, nasal harmonies of the brothers and reframe the song with Krauss’ slow, floating vocals. by the reverberation of the guitar and the strange percussions. In doing so, the song’s message – “The price of love, the price of love, costs you more when you‘re to blame ”- goes from light reflection to deeply resentful contemplation.
In their covers of “Can’t Let Go” by Lucinda Williams and “It Don’t Bother Me” by Bert Jansch, Plant and Krauss elaborate on the music, giving both tracks a richer sound. While the two original songs are more hollow country tunes, the versions on Raise the roof develop the sounds more deeply with haunting harmonies and complex guitars and percussions.
Plant and Krauss illustrate this style in particular on Plant’s track, “High and Lonesome”, in which Led Zeppelin influence is apparent: Shaky percussion spearheads a slow build-up of the song, which rises. and goes down with a gritty guitar. Despite a harsher sound, the song remains lyrically synonymous with sensitive emotional themes throughout the rest of the album: still think of me?
With the sensibility and haunting soprano of Krauss and the emotional confidence and vocal versatility of Plant, Raise the roof turns out to be a beautiful and intricate exploration of the expression of broken hearts and how we can reframe them.
Daily Arts writer Bella Greenbacher can be contacted at email@example.com.