SteveAJones Posted May 6, 2008 Share Posted May 6, 2008 Different styles mix excellently in cool, clever combo BIRMINGHAM NEWS Monday, April 28, 2008 MARY COLURSO News staff writer It's an odd collaboration that, on the face of it, really shouldn't work. Few would think of teaming Alison Krauss, an angelic, exacting singer and bluegrass-folk fiddler, with hard-rock pioneer and passionate yelper Robert Plant. They have vastly different energies and attitudes, not to mention a 23-year age difference. But producer T Bone Burnett has a peculiar genius: He sees, hears and conceives things that others could hardly imagine. He's out of the box. He's ahead of the curve. Heck, he's the creator of his own musical geometry. Krauss and Plant? Perfect, in Burnett's hands - and perfectly wonderful on Saturday during a 9 p.m. concert in Birmingham. The two stars, just a few shows into their tour, played for two hours at the BJCC Arena. Burnett - long, lanky and looking like a character from "Deadwood" in his black duster - was part of their five-member band. In case you hadn't heard, Burnett was at the helm of a Krauss-Plant CD collaboration, "Raising Sand," that was one of the top sellers of 2007. It continues to stir up interest in 2008 and is the impetus for an international trek. On disc and on stage, Krauss, 36 and Plant, 59, lent their talents to a wildly diverse selection of cover material, from a gypsy-tinged Tom Waits ballad ("Trampled Rose") to a bouncy Everly Brothers song ("Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)"). Much of "Raising Sand" has a low-key, hipster vibe - all smoky voices and shimmying shoulders - and Burnett reinvents each song with cool, clever arrangements or bold changes in instrumentation. In general, the principals don't operate as traditional, melody-swapping partners; they alternate as the frontman or frontwoman. At the BJCC, Krauss and Plant started their set with the opening track of the disc, "Rich Woman," and sent the audience home with its final song, "Your Long Journey." They played nearly everything else from "Raising Sand," as well, shuffling the order of about 10 tunes and blending in signature songs from their separate careers. Krauss provided a pitch-perfect rendition of "Down to the River to Pray," from the soundtrack of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" This a cappella version, sweet and haunting, swelled to fill the arena with spiritual conviction. Plant took the lead on radical reworkings of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" and "The Battle of Evermore," massaging a gentler, earthier tone into those formerly piercing, fast-moving hits. He also took "When the Levee Breaks" back to its soulful blues roots. Some technical wizard must have worked a bit of magic at the arena, because the BJCC's sound was clear, clean and resonant - exactly as a listener would wish it. This made it possible to distinguish contributions made by the excellent musicians backing Plant and Krauss: guitarist and band leader Burnett, guitarist and pedal steel player Buddy Miller, bassist Dennis Crouch, drummer Jay Bellerose and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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