Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
There have been some novelty pop pairings recently, most of them heinous---Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, Tim McGraw and Nelly. In the pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, we have something in the vein of the Emmylou Harris and Bright Eyes collaboration--logic wouldn’t have matched them up, but hearing it is transcendent. (Thankfully, none of those other douches put out whole records together.) On one hand, you’ve got Krauss, the sweet-voiced, 20-Grammy-winning, oh-sister-where-art-thou bluegrass wunderkind. On the other, you’ve got Plant. Thanks to producer T-Bone Burnett---helmer of a few Krauss-featuring film soundtracks---the pair finds the sexy, plaintive ground between their two distinctive styles, no better than on Mel Tillis’s softly sung ballad “Stick with Me Baby,” itself a stark contrast to the sultry opener “Rich Woman,” which calls back to Plant’s own work. Plant also takes the reins on “Fortune Teller”---the closest to classic rock this collection ever comes---but hands them over to Krauss completely for the honky-tonk stomp of Little Milton’s “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson.” Though both sing their hearts out, it’s never a battle for supremacy and what’s remarkable is how well their voices suit each other, as if they’ve been playing state fairs and dirt-road speakeasies for decades. (A for-reals tour is scheduled for 2008.) The year’s most awesome surprise.