Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Rounder)


Producer T Bone Burnett says he wanted everybody out of their comfort zones, himself included. His failure on that point ironically forms Raising Sand’s selling point: Endless reverb and succulent echo evoke mystery, then listeners move towards this mystery like a housewife plucking the latest Sue Grafton from her library’s “new book” shelf. The album is pointed towards comfort (and commerciality) most often, so some of the most interesting stuff in this sound comes at the very ends as faders follow the last scrape on a bass, a disconnected tapping, one of Marc Ribot’s ever-oscillating guitar notes shrinking to shorter and shorter wavelengths, settling finally on a hard dot. In one bold stab casually coated, Gene Clark’s “Though the Morning Through the Night” either casts Krauss’ voice as lesbian, or the ex-lover as bisexual (“But to know that another man’s holding you tight / Hurts me little darling”). Even with the misery and the creepy avowal against homicide (“Believe me when I tell you / I could never kill a man”) thrown in, it’s the broken heart, says this matter-of-factness, which matters more than mere genitals. Other tunes implicitly affirm Plant’s cocksman status, often though omission—when it’s time for Plant to marry the “Fortune Teller,” Krauss backs off into some harmony humming. Only “Rich Woman” (co-written by Dorothy LaBostrie, who picked the filth out of “Tutti Frutti” for Little Richard) approaches “Morning”’s approach, though damned if they don’t keep dropping the last syllable of “honey,” making the lynchpin line sound like “She got the money and I got the home.” Heard that way, it sounds like any middle-class American divorce. Read along with the lyric sheet and get a sly cheatin’ song with a hint of a Back Door Duo. Damn, this mystery just keeps going and growing under the covers.