Lonesome Onry and Mean: "Killing the Blues" with Plant and Krauss
Led Zeppelin shouter Robert Plant and country/pop vocalist Alison Krauss seem like a highly unlikely duo. When I heard they'd made an album together called Raising Sand, the pairing seemed so odd I didn't really even want to hear it. I thought their two voices would clash like Lucinda Williams and Robbie Fulks. But the woman in my life, a pretty fair vocalist in her own right, kept telling me I had to listen to it. Now she and I don't exactly listen in lockstep; she likes Rufus Wainright and Julie Andrews, I like Drive-By Truckers and Rockpile. But when she handed me a copy I felt I owed her the courtesy of giving it a shot. What I heard was a wonderful sampler of great country covers along with a couple of rockers and a few pleasantly off-kilter ballads like Sam Phillips' amazing "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us." Suffice to say, Raising Sand has since become one of my favorite, go-back-to albums. [Ed note: hear hear.] I honestly never tire of it. It went on to win nearly every possible accolade that the Americana Music Association conveys, and many, many Grammys including Album of the Year.
The song from the album that absolutely magnetizes me is "Killing The Blues." Written by Chris Isaak's bass player Rowland Salley , the tune has been covered by Shawn Colvin, Chris Smither and John Prine . I was sitting in my watering hole Saturday night when the Plant/Krauss version came on the jukebox, and it reminded me again of the greatness of the track and why the album has been so lauded. It has everything a great country song needs: stylish yet tasteful low-end guitar twang, subtle steel guitar, killer voices, a lyric to melt all the ice in your soul, and producer T-Bone Burnett's always amazing sense of tempo and pace. I scoured the Internet Sunday for "Killing The Blues," and came up with multiple videos of Plant and Krauss performing the song live on their 2008 tour, but none of those performances quite match the album (mostly due to the sound quality of the videos). Above is the best version I could track down. It is one of the tragedies of Hurricane Ike that Plant and Krauss cancelled their show scheduled for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion last September. Though rumors have already started circulating about a Sand sequel, the chance to see this in person may never come again.
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