- 19 Nov 21
That's The Way It Ought To Be
In the third phase of his recording career - after The Zep, and then his of-their-time Eighties records, he triumphantly returned with 2002’s (mostly) covers collection, Dreamland - Robert Plant has made some great records, but none have been more successful - commercially as well as artistically - than Grammy-grabbing collaboration with Alison Krauss, 2007’s Raising Sand.
The obvious move would have been to follow it up, sharpish, but Plant, Krauss, producer T Bone Burnett and the crack band, which includes Tom Waits crony Marc Ribot and Nashville guitar magician Buddy Miller, waited until the time and the material were right and Raise The Roof proves they knew what they were at.
The blueprint is the same: Plant and Burnett bring in semi-obscure R&B records and English folk songs, while Krauss brings that incredible voice and her impeccable, life-long bluegrass pedigree. There’s potential here for a lengthy essay on the relationship between the ancient music of the British Isles and the roots of Appalachian music, but we haven’t room for that kind of academic stuffiness. Suffice it to say that despite Plant’s declaration of his naïveté when it came to country music before working with Krauss, they are as natural a fit together as Porter & Dolly or Gram & Emmylou before them.
Every song here, whether it be from Plant heroes like Anne Briggs of Bert Jansch, or more upbeat fare like the great ‘Searching For My Baby’ by Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces, or something as obscure as ‘Last Kind Words’, originally recorded around 1930 by Geeshie Wiley, about whom little is known, other than she knifed her second husband to death, or even the opening 'Quattro (World Drifts In) originally by Tex-Mex Indie troupers Calexico - although it's a shame their horn lines went missing - ends up sounding like it was written specifically for Krauss and Plant, such are their interpretive gifts.
The term ‘highlight’ is redundant when it comes to a record as near-perfect as this one but at gunpoint I’d pick the shimmering take on Merle Haggard’s ‘Going Where The Lonely Go’, the slinky groove of Betty Harris’ ‘Trouble with My Lover’ or the brilliant reinterpretation of The Everly Brothers’ ‘The Price Of Love’ which strips away the beat kick of the original and turns it into a melancholic masterpiece. It should also be noted the on these tracks Plant, displaying the taste and good sense that comes from experience, mostly stays out of the way and lets Krauss’ heavenly voice lead, as it should.
It’s a selfless, song-serving move indicative of the overall feel-over-flash team performance on this marvellous record, which sounds ancient and modern at the same time, and not only elevates the roof but also raises the bar.