Alison Krauss / Robert Plant

Raise the Roof

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Raise the Roof Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Raising Sand, the first collaborative effort between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, seemed to come from out of the blue in 2007. The pairing of golden rock god and bluegrass troubadour was as unexpected as the album's subdued, nuanced Americana, a sound that existed at the crossroads of the past and the present. It seemed like lightning in a bottle, the kind of magic that couldn't be reproduced, and the subsequent decade or so suggested that suspicion might be true. Plant and Krauss attempted a sequel a couple of times during those ten years, leaving the project behind when the moment didn't seem right. Suddenly, the pieces came together at the end of the 2010s, as Calexico's "Quattro (World Drifts In)" gave Krauss insight into how to proceed with a new record. Soon, she and Plant reunited with producer T-Bone Burnett along with a few Raising Sand session musicians, plus some new hands such as Buddy Miller and Bill Frisell. The resulting Raise the Roof is something of a wonder: a record that proves lightning sometimes does strike twice. If the slow, murky crawl of Raising Sand came as a soft shock in 2007, the surprise of Raise the Roof is that Plant and Krauss can reconnect with that spirit without pandering or replication. Aside from the cinematic atmosphere sculpted by Burnett, there are a few connective tissues between the two records -- both contain songs written by Allen Toussaint and the Everly Brothers (here, it's "Trouble with My Lover" and "The Price of Love," respectively) -- but the true unifier is how Plant and Krauss create a unified vision of roots music that feels respectful yet untethered to the past. Here, they expand their purview to include British folk -- Anne Briggs' "Go Your Way" and Bert Jansch's "It Don't Bother Me" are highlights -- and barroom country ("Going Where the Lonely Go," a mid-career masterpiece from Merle Haggard), shaping the two styles to sound as airy and deep as their interpretations of Americana. Raise the Roof often moves at a deliberate pace -- the liveliest moments of the Plant/Burnett co-write "High and Lonesome," which is the only original here, and Brenda Burns' "Somebody Was Watching Over Me" -- arrive at the very end of the record, but even with the modest tempo, the album feels joyful. There's a palpable pleasure in hearing Plant and Krauss harmonize and trade lines. It often feels like they're delighted that they're making an album that lives up to their debut, and it's hard not to share their thrill.

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