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Vote for Robert & Alison for MSN's December Artist of the Month | 2007-12-03

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Great news: MSN has nominated Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for December's Artist of the Month! They will be featured on the site for the month of December, where fans can go and vote for them. Vote as many times as you like for the entire month of December. Votes are counted at the end of the month -- if Robert and Alison Win they will be featured again for the month of January! MSN's website also includes an interview with Robert and Alison about Raising Sand. Follow the links below to vote and read more...

Vote for Robert & Alison for MSN's December Artist of the Month -- Vote now!


Josh Groban 59%

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss 37%

Radiohead 3%

Led Zeppelin 1%

Mary J. Blige 0%


Alison Krauss and Robert Plant

Piquing interest with 'Raising Sand'

By Gisella Farrell

Special to MSN Music

In an exclusive interview with Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant and bluegrass queen Alison Krauss, the artists paint an idyllic scene of music making, telling of a recording studio in Nashville, Tenn., staffed by some of the best-regarded musicians in the world getting experimental with lesser-known blues classics, while one venerable producer -- T-Bone Burnett -- blends the colorful vocals with a quiet artistry.

Illinois-born Alison, 36, (modest winner of more Grammies than any other female artist, don't cha know) and Englishman Robert, 59, believe it's their contrasting vocals (think sweet folky lilt meets wild-man growl) that make "Raising Sand" so special, but agree they have much in common.

"I think we're similar", Alison told us in her soft voice. "I think we look ahead without planning goals. I think that we're fascinated with what's coming our way musically, and we're looking to be inspired."

She continued: "Robert's a very passionate person, very excited. He's the first person I met who didn't roll his eyes when I was talking about music."

"When I met Robert I knew I wouldn't have to worry about us having different musical tastes -- he's not like that. There was no sugarcoating stuff, no misunderstandings, everything was to the point."

That they get along well is an understatement, as Robert joked: "We are just a double act. We should be doing a TV show, not a record. Like 'Morecambe and Wise.'" He added: "I didn't listen to ['Raising Sand'] for a while, after we'd finished it. Then about two weeks before we met up I started playing it again and I thought, 'My God, we've got it!' I thought: This is better than anything. It's so different, it's better than anything I'd hoped for."

Plant is in a genial mood. Although we've been asked not to mention the upcoming Led Zeppelin reunion, he's clearly extremely happy with this latest project, which was seven years in the making. Suddenly, Plant's cell phone rings -- of all the people you'd expect, it's '60s pop star Lulu, arranging a coffee for next week. Krauss doesn't know who she is, so Plant gallantly sings a few bars of Lulu's best-known hit, "Shout," in his gravelly voice. Is another collaboration in the cards? Erm, not with Lulu -- but Plant thinks making "Raising Sand" has been a progressive work, not just a passing side-project.

"I know so many of my contemporaries who really only do this [collaborations] because they're bored," Plant explained. "Because they go, 'Oh, what can I do now?' But if you have any form of artistry you have to keep it fresh. I think that Alison has inspired me. She's very open with me -- well, as much as a woman can be ..."

An old dog like Plant even learned some new tricks for "Raising Sand" -- in particular, singing techniques: "I had to be taught harmonies. Alison is very diligent and really she was teaching me very first steps of something that she's been doing all her life. I didn't know whether I could do it or not. I just tried. It wasn't difficult. I'm proud of the duets, especially 'Killing the Blues,' that's beautiful."

Krauss chipped in: "The sound of us together has a mystery. I like the huge contrast between our voices, which creates a story. It manipulates the listener into feeling something."

"Yes," Plant continued: "Really, our voices work around spectacular instrumentation. So before you start singing you're already in this place. And that's what music is all about. Whether it's 'Whole Lotta Love' or 'Still Long Journey.' The way your long journey is set up before we start is spectacular really. It's pictorial." He thinks for a moment: "A bit like the Spice Girls."

Unlike Posh, Baby, Scary & Co., Plant and Krauss have a more meaningful dynamic going on. Both admit the "man/woman duets" can sound almost like a courtship, as Plant put it, "We got into character, and it is very romantic."

Speaking of chart acts, "Raising Sand" was kept off the No. 1 spot in the album charts by some other veteran rockers -- the Eagles. But Plant's feeling generous toward his old contemporaries: "Well, I think they'll have to hold onto that, with their talons. You can't beat that can you, it's been 28 years since they last put out an album."

Both Krauss and Plant are clearly huge fans of Burnett -- an American singer-songwriter/producer responsible for some of the 20th century's seminal records -- who had such an input on "Raising Sand" that he gets a joint credit on the album cover.

And despite not really being a fan, it was T-Bone who added a little-known Led Zeppelin song, "Please Read the Letter," to the album's track list.

"T-Bone is fantastic, a legend. He put ['Please Read the Letter'] on his list but I must have sent it to him because T-Bone would never have subscribed to that era of music," Plant explained. "So he said, 'OK, I get it [Zeppelin] now, it's a twilight band.' I think he was into Jimmy

's guitar because T-Bone is a guitarist and Pagey has a sort of international exotica, he can go into those dark places. Whatever, it's a song that hadn't reached its true potential before. Now it's become something else."

We talk about how many older musicians are bringing politics back into music -- in the last 12 months there have been self-dubbed "protest albums" from the likes of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, heck, even the Eagles indulged in some Bush bashing on their comeback record. But perhaps it's no coincidence that "Raising Sand" is more wistful than risible, as Plant takes a somewhat cynical view.

"I was lucky because when I was about 14 I first heard 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright'," he recalled. "And Dylan gave everybody the capacity to have a social conscience and actually speak up. In those days it was far more difficult because segregation was still in place, within the land of America -- which just as it is now, has so many contradictions and so many double standards. But Springsteen and all these people were beaten to the hall by Green Day. Because they were the first major American act, with "American Idiot," to bring it into common speech, you know.

"[Younger bands] do need to have a responsibility to speak up, everybody needs to. But the thing is I don't know whether or not the words are ever actually helpful. There's so much information everywhere all the time from all the news networks about the treachery of our government, how can anybody take anything in and say, 'That's that, I don't want to know'? You can't do anything about it. You can only be aware."

While Plant may be despairing of politicians, at least he has plenty of passion left for the music -- oh, and that reunion gig. He's still jolly, so we slip in a question: How's he feeling about playing with his old band -- possibly the greatest rock outfit of all time -- so many years on?

Plant laughed: "I shall be bare-chested, I will be the archetypal wild man of rock. I'm feeling 98.6 percent about it. And no, that temperature won't go up."

Krauss -- who's probably heard this question more than once in the three weeks of promotion they've done together -- interrupts: "I'll answer for him. He's very complimented by how happy everybody is that they're playing together, he's thrilled about the reason they're playing together, and he's looking forward to celebrating the success that Led Zeppelin had and the mark on history they made."

Plant smiles: "You're a wonderful woman. Yes, we are looking forward to that."

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I voted for them, and will continue to vote. Although it is MIGHTY tempting to vote for Led Zeppelin! ;)

That is a really great article. It shows just how close Robert and Alison have become. I do, however, wish that Robert was a little bit hotter about playing with Zeppelin as I am REALLY hoping for a reunion tour. :)

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