Krauss and Plant: Opposites Attract on a Sweet CD Producer T Bone Burnett found a surprisingly good fit when he matched wispy-voiced bluegrass vocalist Alison Krauss with hard-rock belter Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin fame). Their new CD, Raising Sand, has a relaxed, intimate feel.
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Krauss and Plant: Opposites Attract on a Sweet CD

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Krauss and Plant: Opposites Attract on a Sweet CD

Krauss and Plant: Opposites Attract on a Sweet CD

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This is what Robert Plant sounded like when he sang with Led Zeppelin.

(Soundbite of song "Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night")

Mr. ROBERT PLANT (Singer): (Singing) Hey hey, mama, said the way you move gonna make you sweat - gonna make you groove.

HANSEN: This is what Alison Krauss sounds like when she sing with Union Station.

(Soundbite of song "Restless")

Ms. ALISON KRAUSS (Singer): (Singing) Honey, I know you've been alone some, why don't you 'phone some, 'cause I love you.

HANSEN: And this is what Robert Plant and Alison Krauss sound like when they sing together.

(Soundbite of song "Rich Woman")

Mr. PLANT and Ms. KRAUSS: (Singing) I got a woman with a plenty of money. She got the money and I got the honey.

HANSEN: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss make for a seemingly odd couple, but cast aside your preconceptions. Their album, "Raising Sand," came out Tuesday, and critics have been raving. One with the South Carolina newspaper wrote this: I have no idea who came up with the idea of getting Plant into a recording studio with Krauss, but I would just like to take this chance to thank that individual.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are in our New York bureau. Welcome, both of you, to this program.

Mr. PLANT: Thank you.

Ms. KRAUSS: Thank you very much.

Mr. PLANT: Thanks.

HANSEN: So whom do we have to thank for you two coming together?

Mr. PLANT: I think all the gods and, probably most of all, T-Bone Burnett.

HANSEN: The producer of the album?

Mr. PLANT: Mm-hmm.

HANSEN: Yeah. But did you know - how long have you two known one another?

Mr. PLANT: About two or three weeks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PLANT: Well, we met in about seven years ago.

HANSEN: Alison, tell us a little bit more about that first meeting.

Ms. KRAUSS: Well, Robert had called on the phone. He's a fan of all different types of music, and especially roots music. And he called just to kind of connect one time. That's been, I guess, about seven years ago. And then called about me coming and playing with him at a Lead Belly tribute at the - in Cleveland, at the rock 'n' roll museum up there. And we played together up there. And when you mentioned whose idea was it to get together and record, that was really Robert's idea. He brought it up and said he'd like to try something. And of course, I was very excited about it. And - but we have T-Bone to thank for really getting those ideas in sort of a collected way.

Mr. PLANT: Yeah. He made it tangible. And his choice of material was beyond anything I could have come up with. I mean - and it was so appropriate.

HANSEN: Yeah. I read that T-Bone Burnett wanted to push both of you out of your comfort zones. I mean, what are your comfort zones and how do they get you out of them?

Ms. KRAUSS: There's a song on the record called "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson" that he suggested for me to sing. And I loved the tune and I loved the way the feel of the tune was in the original recording. And he suggested I sing it. I was like, my goodness. You know, I'm too white to do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KRAUSS: And, you know, I think you know something like, well, you can be white. It doesn't mean that you don't have a soul, you know? And so - sing it like you sing your bluegrass tunes. You sing it with that much heart. Sing that and it'll work.

(Soundbite of song "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson")

Ms. KRAUSS: (Singing) Oh, now she's gone. I realized I lost the best thing there is, and my pride keeps telling me let your loss be your lesson.

HANSEN: And Robert Plant, what was your comfort zone and how did he get you, T-Bone, get you out of it.

Mr. PLANT: I probably didn't really believe that I could take these songs and give them a fair translation or the delicacy and the intricacy and the sensitivity and the emotive elements of the writing, especially the Townes van Zandt song, "Nothin'." I just thought how can I - me, you know, I can understand me grabbing hold a Buffalo Springfield or Arthur Lee and running with that or running with the Tuareg guys from Paris or whatever. But how do I actually bring that home, because it's coming from another place by - from somebody's abstract pain.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: And your voice is sweet.

Mr. PLANT: Thank you, so as yours. I mean - no, but I mean…

HANSEN: But you know what I mean.

Mr. PLANT: I can sing those songs. I just didn't know that I could.

(Soundbite of song "Nothin'")

Mr. PLANT: (Singing) Hey mama, when you leave, don't leave a thing behind. I don't want nothin'. I can't use nothin'. Take care into the hall. And if you see my friends tell them I'm fine, not usin' nothin'.

HANSEN: Did you both have input into the songs that you would do or was it all T-Bone's doing?

Ms. KRAUSS: No, we - Robert and myself, we had sent some tunes back and forth to each other. I don't remember how many months. And I've sent something - I don't like that. And then he'd send something to me and - I don't know. And then we kind of discussed the kind of record we'd want to make and got T-Bone involved, luckily. And he then sent us a batch of material, and we both were so impressed by that that - then Robert added to that list. And I guess Robert had five tunes that he had brought that ended up on the album. And the rest were T-Bone's suggestions.

HANSEN: Robert, was one them the one that you wrote?

Mr. PLANT: Yeah. I wrote it with Jimmy Page and Charlie and Michael from that band. It was on an album called "Walking Into Clarksdale" with Jimmy. And it was good. But I always heard it as something much more coming out of the pines, if you like; Coming out of the hills, rather than coming out of Abbey Road, London.

(Soundbite of song "Please Read The Letter")

Mr. PLANT: (Singing) My house was full of rings and charms and pretty birds.

Mr. PLANT and Ms. KRAUSS: (Singing) Please understand me, my walls came falling down. There's nothing here that's left for you, but check with lost and found. Oh. Oh. Oh. Please read the letter that I wrote.

HANSEN: I have to admit, when I was listening to the CD - blind. I mean, just putting it in my car and listening to it, I was reminded of the Everly Brothers and then I discover you actually do a cover of one of their tunes, "Gone, Gone, Gone." And it's becoming the first hit from the CD. And it, you know, it still has that rock and roll feel. But how do you think you each put your own stamp on this song.

(Soundbite of song "Gone, Gone, Gone")

Mr. PLANT: We went looking for something that was rocking, moving. It had to have a kind of vocal attitude. You know, the guy is giving instructions to the woman.

(Soundbite of song "Gone, Gone, Gone")

Mr. PLANT and Ms. KRAUSS: (Singing) Some sunny day-hay baby. When everything seems okay, baby. You'll wake up and find out you're alone 'cause I'll be gone.

Mr. PLANT: Some sunny day, baby. You know, that's - it's - like there's a sort of attitude about it. And I can see when I sing this from my 1958 tour, who I hero worship when I was a kid, the way they would do it without the sort of corner the mask might drop a little bit. And we just got into the booth and just turned attitude, button up a bit more and it was kind of retro attitude.

(Soundbite of song "Gone, Gone, Gone")

Mr. PLANT: (Singing) Why you're on your own. Just say I'm gone. Gone, gone, gone. Gone, ga-gone, cause you done me wrong.

Ms. KRAUSS: I grew up singing harmony where you're, you know, in bluegrass -where you're really following the lead. Now, you really stick to that lead and the goal is, you know - and I'd watch Jim and Jesse when I was kid on stage playing and I try to figure out, you know, of course, if you're not familiar with Jim and Jesse McReynolds and The Virginia Boys. They - a brother duet, you know, kind of in the following of Louvin Brothers, which, of course is to the Everly Brothers or into the Blue Sky Boys before that.

But you know, that famous sound of brother duets. And people in Blue Grass bands, they'd follow that sound. And the point of that is those three voices or two voices, they become one. You can't tell who's singing lead, and almost every part is the lead, you know, depending on which one you can try to pick up. I mean, it's a very tight style of singing.

(Soundbite of song "Through The Morning, Through The Night")

Ms. KRAUSS and Mr. PLANT: (Singing) But to know that the trust you had in me is gone hurts me little darling through the nighttime, through the dawn.

HANSEN: Robert, why don't you want to call these duets?

Mr. PLANT: I don't mind what you call them. I'm just singing with a great singer. I think the term duet kind of intimates established singers who've kind of ran out of ideas and they take songs and they get together and make them into some kind of sugarcoated moment. And this added the attitude on this record, where the musicians and definitely with T-Bone's kind of left-the-field production was something that shouldn't even intimate the normal reading of the term duet, because it's just - these are adventures, really. And it was initially, I suppose you got to say. Well, we were kind of out there, trying it out. It could have been - maybe in two or three days, it might not have worked to meet us, shaken hands and said, you all come back now. But it weren't.

Ms. KRAUSS: Come back and see us. We appreciate you.

Mr. PLANT: Yeah. And I'd have had my apple cobbler and gone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: You know, this sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Mr. PLANT: Oh, I think we're already in it. I mean, we're good mates. We're good pals. She's very patient with my rather questionable English humor, which, I must admit has been developed over years and years of hanging out with just guys. So I do apologize.

Ms. KRAUSS: But as delivered so politely, you don't know what to do. You don't know how you're supposed to react. Well, that's wonderful. Thank you, I think.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PLANT: Oh, dear.

HANSEN: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Their new CD called "Raising Sand" is on Rounder Records. And they joined us from our New York bureau.

Thanks so much.

Ms. KRAUSS: Thank you.

Mr. PLANT: Thank you. Take care.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: I'm surprised you didn't call the CD Raising Hell?

Ms. KRAUSS: Raising H-E Double Hockey Stick.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PLANT: We haven't started yet. You wait until we go on the road.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You can hear songs from the new CD and discover move music at our Web site,

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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