Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Favorite Sunday Morning Album - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

The assignment this time around is my favorite Sunday morning come down album, which I took to mean just my go to album when I need to mellow out.  In my world, Sunday mornings don't always mean its time to chill and relax and come down.  But there are certainly other times in my life when I need to do this, and I can't tell you how many times I've pulled out this CD, even though its only been released for 5 or 6 years.

One thing I love about this album is that the artists involved really make a perfect pairing.  It is easy to tell just from listening to this that they worked together and crafted this music.  They didn't just show up as the vocal talent while someone else put everything together.  Their voices play off of each other, they intertwine during the harmonies, and it all works beautifully.  Some songs are straight up duets, some with Robert singing lead, some with Alison in the lead, but however they do it, it just flat out works.

The other thing I love about it is the overall sense of restraint throughout the album.  Don't get me wrong, there are certain tracks that feel like they are about to explode, but they never do, and it would be wrong if they did.  To play like that, though, to bring it right to the edge and keep it there, is some pretty amazing stuff.  And that goes on throughout the album.  You can't really talk about restraint without mentioning the amazing job Plant does on this.  I mean, Led Zeppelin was never known for restraint, and he certainly could have come to this as Robert Freaking Plant, the golden god, which would have ruined it all.  He shows his true artistry by being and doing what the music needs, not what his ego needs.  I watched a little documentary about the making of this album, and was really impressed by one fact in particular.  Plant didn't know how to sing harmonies.  Why would he, he's Robert Freaking Plant.  So Alison Krauss recorded a CD of each song, with the harmony parts that he should sing, and he learned to sing harmony from that, just to give this album the proper touch.  That was very cool to me, that someone of his pedigree with both Zeppelin and his own outstanding solo career under his belt, would do what is needed to make a project work at an entirely different level.

I know a lot of people who won't listen to these projects that Plant does, for a variety of reasons, but you are simply cheating yourself out of some really pleasure.  This is just an amazing release.  There are ballads, there are touches of country and bluegrass, there is some Americana and roots music, and it is all expertly played.  The reworking and re-imaginings of these songs is absolutely brilliant at times.  It is the perfect soundtrack to any time that you need to just kick back and unwind from whatever.

I would be remiss if I didn't say anything about Alison Krauss' contributions to this as well.  Her voice is simply sublime and she shows herself to be a true vocal talent.  I heard things on this CD that I've never heard in her other work.  She also lends her talent with the fiddle to several of the tracks and she shows herself to be a truly gifted musician as well, always adding just the right touch.  Again, the restraint shown on this album is what makes it so damn good.  It could have been an over the top superstar jam session, and instead it is just the perfect combination of song arranging, vocal talents, and musical genius.

I had the pleasure of seeing them on the tour they did for this album, and that was even more amazing.  They broke out more and different songs, they showcased their individual talents even more, and it made me really sad that the rumored live album has not, to date, ever materialized.  But we have “Raising Sand”, and it is a stunning document of some incredible music.  If you've avoided it for any reason, or, as I've discovered from many of my friends with whom I've shared this, never even knew it existed, check it out.  Music in any genre doesn't get much better than this.


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