REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/10/2007
If I could travel back in time, grab a hippie from Woodstock, bring him back the present and tell him Robert Plant and Alison Krauss just cut a bluegrass duets album, he’d most likely have two questions for me. The first: “Who the hell is Alison Krauss?” Second: “Robert Plant and bluegrass? What are you, high?”
Whatever your complaints about the abilities of Plant and Krauss may be, they come together on this record in a brilliant fashion; accompanying each other perfectly. It is quickly apparent that the material was studied intensively by both parties, and there was a genuine effort to create a collaborative album, not a record where two people sing back and forth. The lead single “Gone Long Gone” demonstrates this perfectly; its infectious chorus displays the terrific chemistry the two share.
What comes next may sound like blasphemy, but during a few cuts, Robert Plant lays down better vocals than some of his best Zeppelin work. That quality comes from experience; “Polly Come Home Again,” could not been recorded by a 26-year-old Plant. The subtle nuances and painfully emotive delivery is something no Zeppelin song ever came close to achieving.
For every amazing moment Plant delivers, Krauss steps up the bat and knocks one out of the park as well. “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” and “Trampled Rose” are stunners, though from what I gather Allison Kraus fans would not be surprised. 20 Grammys, no matter what you actually think of them, is pretty impressive.
Finally, the third part of the equation for success is the music. Krauss is one of the foremost bluegrass musicians of our time, and that is the genre that populates this record. Bluegrass has always fascinated me as a genre; it is incredibly evocative and exotic when performed right, and that is the case here. While the names are unfamiliar, sources informed me that the musicians who compromised the band that plays on this album are some of the best in the business.The only reason this album caught my eye was because of the names. It is a pairing that would seem at first glance to be misguided, but those concerns are quickly won over as the album plays itself out. From out of left field, Plant and Krauss have delivered an album of the year candidate.