My Brit friend living in Japan, Michael Furmanovsky, who first introduced me to Alison Krauss (and African music) sent me an mp3 from her new collaboration with Robert Plant, Raising Sand (album website). I listened to it and thought: “Well, that’s very nice.” But to tell you the truth it didn’t send me into raptures. A few days later I decided to build an Amazon store here at this blog and went looking for the recording. It damn near knocked my socks off to learn that the record was number 1. It’s number 6 on Billboard. Which all goes to show that Allison Krauss, who at the beginning of her career was a doyenne of the rather small traditional music crowd (when I first came to know about her) has long since rocketed out of that niche to the pinnacle of the music industry. It also doesn’t hurt to have the added yichus (“prestige”) of Robert Plant connected with the effort.
Another thing that shocks me is that a pretty pure traditional country-blues album could sit at the top of the music charts. Simply amazing and gratifying for someone who’s championed such music for decades. It’s no surprise that Krauss turned to T. Bone Burnett to produce this album since he did such a masterful job on Down from the Mountain, the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.
After listening to more of the record it grew on me. There are some lovely, understated efforts like Your Long Journey and Roly Salley’s masterpiece, Killing the Blues, but the one that really knocks my socks off is the 1962 novelty hit covered by a million 60s bands, Fortune Teller (hear it). Fittingly enough, it was written by Allen Toussaint writing under the pseudonym, Naomi Neville. Plant really romps through this one with a terrific spidery rock roots guitar accompaniment. Though Krauss has a bit role musically, it is a soaring celestial solo as the “voice from above” confirming the narrator’s love for the fortune teller. Spooky-lovely.