Saturday, October 2, 2010

Black Dog and Rock meets Blue Grass

A pal of mine recently reminded me of a musical pairing that I have been meaning to check into for a while.  I heard one of the Robert Plant / Alison Krauss duets some time ago and for some reason did not follow up on it then, although I recall liking the sound a lot.  When my friend Kathleen posted one of the songs from the Album last week on Facebook a light bulb went off in my brain and I went to You Tube to hear more and was hooked.   As I was pulling together the material for this blog, I ended up ordering their album, Raising Sand, from iTunes.  I have now listened to it off and on all week and am even more impressed than I was upon first listen.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant 1974
Of course, Robert Plant is one of rock's charismatic rock-and-roll front men, vocalist and lyricist in the band Led Zeppelin.  He has also led a pretty successful solo career since the death of band member John Bonham and the band's break up in 1980.    Wiki talks of this Legend's influence on Metal Rock:
Robert Plant is one of the most significant singers in rock music and has influenced the style of many of his contemporaries, including Geddy Lee, Ann Wilson, Sammy Hagar and later rock vocalists such as Jeff Buckley who imitated his performing style extensively. Freddie Mercury of Queen also was influenced by Plant. Encyclopedia Britannica notes "Exaggerating the vocal style and expressive palette of blues singers such as Howlin' WolfMuddy Waters, [Robert] Plant created the sound that has defined much hard rock and heavy metal singing: a high range, an abundance of distortion, loud volume, and emotional excess".  Plant received the Knebworth Silver Clef Award in 1990.

Unless you are into bluegrass or country Music, you might not know of Alison Krauss. Wiki says:

Alison Krauss (born July 23, 1971) is an American bluegrass-country singer, songwriter and fiddler. She entered the music industry at an early age, winning local contests by the age of ten and recording for the first time at fourteen. She signed with Rounder Records in 1985 and released her first solo album in 1987. ...
She has released eleven albums, appeared on numerous soundtracks, and helped renew interest in bluegrass music in the United States. Her soundtrack performances have led to further popularity, including the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, an album also credited with raising American interest in bluegrass, and the Cold Mountain soundtrack, which led to her performance at the 2004 Academy Awards. During her career she has won 26 Grammy Awards, making her the most awarded female artist (and the third most awarded artist overall) in Grammy history.
So what is England's famous vocalist and legendary hard rocker doing with America's clear voiced angelic soprano Alison Krauss?  They have put out as fine a blend of rock--bluegrass-country -- Adult Alternative as you could imagine.

One great example of this wonderful collaboration and complementary vocal styling is the famous Led Zeppelin song Black Dog.  I remember wasting away many Saturday nights in my teen years listening to this song.  The song instantly transplants me back to 1971.   In 2004 the song was ranked #294 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Have a listen.  Isn't this vintage Led Zeppelin?  What were you doing in 1971 when this song was on the Hit Parade?

Black Dog - Led Zeppelin - Vintage 1971!

Black dog
by Led Zeppelin

Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move,
Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.
Ah, ah, child, way you shake that thing,
Gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting.
Hey, hey, baby, when you walk that way,
Watch your honey drip, can't keep away.

I gotta walk, can't stand still,
Got a flamin' heart, can't get my fill,
Eyes that shine burning red,
Dreams of you all through my head.

Hey baby, oh baby, pretty baby,
Tell me would you do me now.
Hey baby, oh baby, pretty baby,
Move me while you groove me now

Take too long b'fore I found out
What people mean by down and out.
Spent my money, took my car,
Started tellin' her friend she' goin' be a star.
I don't know, but I've been told
A Big legged woman ain't got no soul

All I ask for, All I pray,
Steady lonely woman gonna come my way.
Need a woman gonna hold my hand
tell me no lies, make me a happy man.

Rock meets Bluegrass-Country
Now have a listen to the Plant-Krauss version.  What do you think?

Raising Sand is an interesting album.  The two vocalists harmonize wonderfully and their different musical background brings the best of both worlds to the album, but what about the musical selections on the album?    The album's producer, T-Bone Burnett is credited with giving the album its unique musical style.

There are no Led Zeppelin tunes on the album.  Plant and Krauss began an extended tour of the US and Europe in April 2008, playing music from Raising Sand and other American roots music as well as reworked Led Zeppelin tunes. It is from one of these concerts the Black Dog video was recorded.

According to Wiki:
Raising Sand is a collaboration album by rock singer Robert Plant and bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss. It was released on October 23, 2007 by Rounder Records.
The album was met with critical acclaim, earning an averaged score of 87 from compiled reviews on Metacritic. This album was #24 on Rolling Stone's list of the Top 50 Albums of 2007. On February 8, 2009, the album won all five awards for which it was nominated at the 51st Grammy Awards: Album of the Year; Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album; Record of the Year (for "Please Read the Letter"); Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (for "Rich Woman"); and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (for "Killing the Blues"). Raising Sand was the second of three country albums to win Album of the Year, after Dixie Chicks's Taking the Long Way and followed by Taylor Swift's Fearless.

The album was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize in the UK.

In December 2009, Rhapsody ranked the album #2 on its "Country’s Best Albums of the Decade" list. The online music service also called it one of their favorite cover albums of all time.

The following Video featuring Please Read the Letter is from the album Raising Sand. It is a wonderful example of how well their voices harmonize.

1 comment:

  1. I like the original "Black Dog" the best. Your last music video, though, is very good. I hadn't ever heard the two sing together. Their voices do harmonize quite well.


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