Thursday, November 15, 2007

Trampled Under Bluegrass

I picked up the newest issue of Paste the other day in part because the sampler CD had one of the songs from the new album Raising Sand, a collection of lesser-known tunes in a wide range of musical styles, recorded by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Yeah - I did a double-take, too, the first time I heard about it. I know Alison Krauss isn’t really country, but she’s close - and it was sort of hard to imagine Robert Plant singing songs with a country person. I don’t like country music, but it’s mostly because of the hillbilly culture and nimrods like Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. Once in awhile you find some real musical talent (Johnny Cash, pre-Sevens Garth Brooks, post-Fly Dixie Chicks), but mostly it’s crap.

And yet even with the quasi-country stigma, I was intrigued, somehow, as I was not intrigued by other country-normal music collaborations like recent records by Jimmy Buffett and Joan Osborne and the new album by the Eagles that supposedly hearkens back to their quasi-country roots. (Actually, I am intrigued by the new Eagles album, but being a principled person possessed of a soul I do not shop at Wal-Mart, which is supposedly the only place it’s being sold.)

So I spun the sample disc on the way to work yesterday, and damn! The song on the sampler is the fifth track on the record, an Everly Brothers number called “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),” and it was so good that I went out and bought the album today. I’m going through the first spin of the album as I am writing this, and it’s pretty solid so far. When I imported it into iTunes, it was tagged as “blues,” but I don’t know if that really hits it on the head.

Plant’s voice sounds pretty good after all these years, although the high wails from the Zeppelin days are no more, of course; and the harmonies are really good, especially on that Everly Brothers song, which rocks out in a dark way that I don’t imagine the Everly Brothers themselves ever really tapped into. There’s a bluesy undertone there, and a bit of country going on, too, in places (slide guitar!) on some of the other tracks; but what comes through any attempt at categorization is the fine vocalization, like they picked a wide range of styles in which to show off how well it turns out they can sing together.

It vaguely brings to mind the Bob Dylan album Desire (best known for containing the song “Hurricane,” though that song seems out of place when juxtaposed against the rest of the album - in much the same way that “One Of Us” seems out of place on Joan Osborne’s Relish), which is not precisely a duet album (Emmylou Harris contributes backing vocals to all the tracks), but features the same kind of intimate interplay in the vocals and harmonies.

Addendum: Did you click on the link to Paste magazine up there at the top? I did, to make sure the link worked, and there's a poll question on there asking what your favorite Led Zeppelin album is. I didn't much want to click on it, because I was afraid that the results would be overwhelmingly in favor of IV, which is good but which, thanks to Q95 and fucking Cadillac, I don't ever need to hear again. I clicked anyway - and sure enough, IV got the most votes, but was not the ovverwhelming favorite. Close behind were Houses Of The Holy and II, which got my vote.


Prime Mover said...

IV is so good because there is no bad song on the album and it doesn't help the fact that the most popular (and played out) song of all time is on that album, Stairway to Heaven. But my favorite Zep album of all time is probably considered their worst, In Through The Out Door. This is my favorite because this was the first Zep album I bought waaaay back in 8th grade which had All of My Love.

Actually, all music sucks nowadays, not just country. Besides, at least country musicians love this country you pinko commie :)

Michael Maier said...

I'm with PM here. It's a little silly to hate an album because it's so good everyone likes it.

It's not IV's fault it's overplayed!

The power of that album is revealed (to me at least) because even after hearing those songs the most, I'd still have to pick it as LZ's best and my favorite. I'm not even sick of Stairway! (Especially that KILLER drum break right before "And as we wind on down the road..." BONZO RULES!)

What a great band though, eh?

John-O said...

Undeniably a great band, Mike. And I don't hate the record - I'm just tired of hearing the same songs from it played over and over. That's one of the main reasons I no longer listen to Q95 very much. Would it kill them to play "The Battle Of Evermore" one time instead of "Black Dog" for the nineteenth time today?

I could even stand to hear "Stariway To Heaven" a bit more and "Rock And Roll" a bit less.

When considering the record's ubiquity, I am reminded of the pop music versus being miserable question from High Fidelity, only here it would look like this:

Does everybody like IV because it's a great record, or is IV a great record because everybody likes it?

Prime Mover said...

Naw, everyone likes IV because it is a great album. When I first bought the tape back in 10th grade I actually had no idea it was considered a "classic", seriously, I didn't. I love the entire album, except I'm kind of sick of Black Dog just because of the over play factor. There are other classic rock stations that are a hell of a lot better than Q95. 104.5, 101.9 and 91.5 (a high school station) plays a lot more variety than the Q. I've actually stopped listening to radio almost all together since I got an adapter for my car for my ipod.

Of course, that question you ask of the IV album could be applied to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, U2 and other popular acts.

troy myers said...

zep III. best cover. best songs(tangerine and that's the way). best potential for making out. best.