Two magical voices together again
From the moment the heavenly harmonised voices of the Everly Brothers singing Bye Bye Love began to be heard on the radio on 17 March 1957, the history of rock music was filled with voices that worked magically together, like those of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell or Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. From the day they met, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss discovered that their voices worked that kind of magic, even though he came from being a rock god as the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, and she was a bluegrass singer.
Their first album together, Raising Sand, was an unexpected hit in 2007, selling thousands of records and winning several awards. Now, 14 years later, they reunite their voices on Raise The Roof and the magic flows again as it did on the first day, proving once again that their albums are the gold standard of the oft-criticised cover album. Of course, here there are no hits that have been re-hashed a thousand times, no sweetened glances at the American Songbook - this is a complete reconstruction of the source material, which manages to draw new creative emotions from the original source.
T-Bone Burnett, who once again acts as producer,and multi-instrumentalist, lends a hand in the selection of the songs and is responsible for recruiting a band of real luxury to accompany the two protagonists, including people like David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, who brings his Telecaster, Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot, who in addition to the acoustic and electric, possibly his Jaguar, also contributes dobro and banjo.
The arrangements are once again spartan, focusing on Plant and Krauss' vocals, but they know how to give coherence and unity to the eclectic material they start from. On this occasion, in addition to the more Americana tunes, such as covers of Lucinda Williams or Merle Haggard, there are glimpses of Bert Jansch's British folk and Bobby Moore's soul. The fact is that Plant's worn but totally expressive voice once again marries perfectly with Krauss's beautiful soprano timbre.
The former Led Zeppelin member knows that he is no longer at the level to sing Immigrant Song or Whole Lotta Love, but he knows how to make the most of his new voice, which is deeper and with more wisdom, as is demonstrated on Go Your Way, one of the best songs on the album, on the warm Searching For My Baby and in that demonstration of class when singing the blues that is High And Lonesome. For her part, Krauss shines in bringing to life the words of the Everly Brothers on The Price Of Love - in that walk through New Orleans, hand in hand with Allen Toissant in Trouble With My Lover - and in conjuring up the ghost of Sandy Denny (who also sang beautifully with Plant on The Battle Of Evermore) in It Don't Bother Me. Still, perhaps the most electrifying moments are in the more proper duets, where they sing together, like that opening with Calexico's Quattro (World Drifts In), the Randy Weeks-written Can't Let Go, popularised by Lucinda Williams, or the finale with Pops Staples' Somebody Was Watching.
Raise The Roof is an album that, contrary to its title, is not designed to smash the roof, but rather to allow itself to be impregnated with the darkness of the chosen material; broken love affairs, betrayals, crushed dreams, poverty...; to achieve a thematic and musical coherence that makes this album a perfect continuation of the acclaimed Raising Sand. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss once again manage to unify all the material with their voices and achieve a work that sounds like a real album - and not just an excuse to get your money for Christmas.