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Raise the Roof is the long-awaited second album from Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. 14 years after their first multi-Grammy award winning album Raising Sand, Raise the Roof is, quite simply, fantastic. Since the two musicians began to collaborate, they have often been characterised as the ultimate ‘odd couple’ — due in part to their highly differing histories. Krauss for instance, with her huge back catalogue of hits like “Whiskey Lullaby” or “Stay”, has been widely credited as re-popularising country and bluegrass music across America. By contrast, Robert Plant is perhaps most famous for his time spent as the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, one of the biggest rock bands in the world. On paper then, it does seem that these musicians are highly different, yet I would argue that one of the fascinating things about music is that nobody is ever more than a few steps away from each other. Led Zeppelin and, in particular, Plant were certainly influenced by rockabilly (a mixture of country and rock), as well as taking direction from folk legends like Bert Jansch, whose hit “It Don’t Bother Me” also appears on this album. As Plant himself points out “So much of Appalachian [a region stretching roughly from parts of Virginia to North Carolina] music is rooted in Western European folk music…..I don’t see it as very distinct at all”.

Raise the Roof has a genre-blending quality, in that it is comprised mainly of covers taken from a huge range of artists, from soul queen Betty Harris to country star Hank Williams, as well as early blues pioneers like Greshie Wildly. If you’re going to listen to this album, I would also highly recommend listening to some of the originals of these songs, as it really showcases some spectacular musicians. Perhaps in reflection of this diversity of influences, this album is incredibly layered both musically and vocally. This gives the whole thing a kaleidoscopic quality — listen to each track again and you’ll notice something new. Such is especially true on the one non-cover track “High and Lonesome” — written by Plant and the guitar wizard and producer for this album, T-Bone Burnett, which ends up sounding like a cross between a blues number and an orchestral piece.

“Two distinctive voices such as Krauss and Plants’ can still blend seamlessly”

“Quattro (World Drifts In)” provides the perfect opening number, with the whole track feeling suggestive of the start of a journey, the twin vocals from Plant and Krauss paired with slide guitar stretching out at the end of each verse, like eyes gazing across an open landscape stretching out into the distance. From there the album shifts introspectively, with tracks like the “The Price of Love”, which is an amazing example of how two such distinctive voices as Krauss and Plants’ can still blend seamlessly. The same can be said for “Searching For My Love”, on which T Bone Burnett’s guitar perfectly complements Plant’s lead vocals to create a real sense of intention, without the music itself being too heavy.

The next track “Go Your Way”, taken from the British folk singer Anne Briggs, I would characterise as an ultimately bittersweet song centred on the state between love and loss. Plant’s voice carries so much barely controlled pain, yet the music itself suggests some form of acceptance of this loss. In fact, thematically I would say the album deals much with liminal states. Both surrounding love and loss, as well as life and death, especially on the darker numbers like “You Led Me to The Wrong” or “Last Kind Word Blues”, which is pure American gothic, the playful waltz-like melody of the band mixes with dark lyrical subjects and their delivery.


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“Trouble With My Lover”, another Krauss dominated song, is also one of my favourites, with Krauss’ vocals rising and falling effortlessly — carrying such a sense of intimacy, with the bass and drum breaks only serving to emphasise this. The excellence of the drummer Jay Bellerose also shines through on the next track “Can’t Let Go”, as the percussion really makes you move. In the clips released of the band performing this song, it’s also fantastic to watch Krauss and Plant egging each other on, as well as to see the rest of the band, especially guitar players David Hidalgo (from the band Los Lobos) and Bill Frisell, interacting. In fact, watching any of their performances really makes you wish you could have been a fly on the wall during the making of the album. In short, Raise the Roof is excellent, with each track delivering a completely immersive narrative while taking the listener to a myriad of places along the way, and I would highly recommend giving it a listen.