Photo by David McClister
Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Raise the Roof, the second collaborative record — 14 years after the first — from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
When Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ debut collaboration appeared in the form of Raising Sand, it was a surprising pairing. And, of course, combining the talents of one of modern rock’s most well-known frontmen with a bluegrass and country icon yielded a monumental album. Over a decade later, it’s still an album that hangs in the air when it’s played, long after the last notes hit — it’s simultaneously poignant and distinct from what we know. So, when the duo rightfully earned a score of awards, there came the question: What next? And following closely was another: Could they even recreate something of the same magnitude?
Even Plant and Krauss had their own doubts. In a press release, Plant spoke of his own concerns after the two met in November 2019 for a follow-up session to Raising Sand, saying it was “kind of daunting.” Maybe in a different timeline, we wouldn’t have the sequel, because when the two reconvened, they had no expectations for the project, with Krauss sharing, “When we started, Robert had said that if it didn’t work, we’ll try it for three days and say goodbye.” But, luckily, 14 years later, something did rise from the sessions — we got Raise the Roof, and Raising Sand’s producer T Bone Burnett returned for the project.
Covers make up the majority of the album, but make no mistake: Plant and Krauss hone into their sweet harmonies to usher in something decidedly different from the originals. The album begins with their cover of Calexico’s “Quattro (Worlds Drift In).” A cascade of smooth strums spawn a haunting flash of coolness into the first notes of the album, identifying the kind of journey their sequel is ready to take listeners on. It’s continued by “The Price of Love,” which markedly uncovers how even Krauss’ angelic voice can have an eerie edge. On the exterior, it’s gentle and slowly ebbs, giving Plant and Krauss enough space to fully sing and show their range across the song.
While the album is mostly packed with covers, there is one original song Plant and Krauss wrote together. “High And Lonesome” comes as one of the last few songs on Raise the Roof. There’s a gritty element to the song with quick plucks and Plant’s own raspy vocals gleaming through every so often.
Even amid songs that sit halfway between being grounded or outright ethereal, there are others that change the tone of the album, introducing light-hearted bounces to contrast the record’s weight. “Searching For My Love” and “Can’t Let Go,” which was released ahead of the album’s debut, are two that exist under this category.
Probably most notable across the album’s 12 songs is the pair’s appreciation for worldly music that folds itself into every note. “One of my favorite parts of this is the songs and songwriters that I had never heard of,” Krauss acknowledged. “Working with Robert, and with T Bone, is always a great education in musical history.”
Raise the Roof is primarily a cover album, but highlights their own personalities and years of experience without disregarding the intentions of the original songs. While 14 years was a long wait for Raise the Roof, it was worth counting down the days.