Robert Plant and Alison Krauss in Denver, June 21, 2008
Since this one came up in the middle of Plant's "I'm in the Mood for a Melody," one of his first hits as a solo artist, it invited some consideration of the similarities between Plant's and Krauss' music. Krauss' albums usually include several minor key, mournful tunes direct from the smoky Appalachian Mountains and a few bluegrass tunes that sound pretty authentic. Plant also has dabbled in traditional English folk tunes; "Gallows Pole" comes to mind, a song that moreover has a similar feel to some of the material Krauss does. For those with an interest in music genealogy, if you trace the lineage of some of the mountain music that forms the basis, in part, of modern country music, you'll end up in England with some of the same traditional folk songs Plant has been listening to for some time. So it turns out that the Plant/Krauss partnership may not be so unlikely after all.
"Fortune Teller," from Raising Sand, was another highlight. Plant took lead vocals on this one and Krauss came in about half way through with some haunting, wordless background vocals somewhat reminiscent of "The Great Gig in the Sky" but several times more soulful than Pink Floyd could ever hope to be. The aforementioned "I'm in the Mood for a Melody" featured a fiddle duet with Krauss and multi-string master Stuart Duncan. T Bone Burnett, described by Plant as the mastermind of the entire project, stepped out front for two of his own tunes, "Primitives" and "Bon Temps Rouler," which added some New Orleans spice to the evening. "Nothin,'" a Townes Van Zandt song from the new album, was quite dark, suggestive of Zeppelin's "No Quarter."
As could be expected, the band was top-notch. They consistently lay down a subtle yet chunky groove that was often mysterious and atmospheric. Miller and Duncan seemed to change instruments on every tune and played practically anything with strings on it. They probably used more acoustic instruments than electric, but even the electric guitars were almost all-hollow bodies. Crouch stuck with an acoustic bass throughout the two-hour concert.
The Raising Sand album has a number of pictures of Plant and Krauss together. In one, they stand facing each other, Krauss looking at him while appearing elegant herself, but Plant is turning his head slightly away from Krauss and toward the camera. His head is cocked back and he has a school-boy smirk that seems to say "Look what I got!" Indeed.