How Robert Plant Won a Grammy in the ‘Alison Krauss Category’
Plant set his memories around “Nothin’” from Raising Sand, the 2007 Krauss collaboration that secured five awards at the 2009 Grammy ceremony.
Plant started by explaining how was largely unfamiliar with American folk music, despite a long-standing interest in the blues. “I knew really only the stuff that had popped into my veins and continued to develop,” he said. “The music from the Mississippi Delta and the migration of it into Chicago, and how it turned into from Blind Lemon Jefferson to Larry Williams, Little Richard, the Drifters – the way that black music moved through the trials of the musicians, the showmanship of people who came from such a dark, dire, ridiculously inhuman place.”
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Plant added that he continued to explore those avenues of history until around 2000. “I’d seen the otherworld of what you’d literally called folk music – but I didn’t really know too much about the underbelly of folk and European-esque American music," he said. "I didn’t know what was going on at the fireside, around the hearth, in country America.”
That changed when writer Bill Flanagan, who Plant called “a huge force in American reportage of music,” introduced the former Led Zeppelin frontman to producers from VH1’s Crossroads series. The aim was to tie artists together who might not otherwise have met, Plant explained, joking: “Kid Rock with Joan Baez, Kid Rock with Donald Trump, something like that. … They said, ‘Do you know about Alison Krauss? I said, ‘Well, yeah, she’s got the voice of an angel and she sings very, very delicate beautiful songs about pain, heartache and joy. And she plays fiddle and she’s got more Grammys than anybody else because of the Alison Krauss category! Anyway, they said, ‘Why don’t you come and give it a whirl, see what you think? She likes the ‘80s very much, she loves Def Leppard.’ I said, ‘That’s us, then!’”
They decided that “something good” could come from a collaboration “because our voices are so different; and yet, if I back off and take away the whole edge on the vocal performance, I can sing very delicately.” They arranged a trial performance which Plant recalled as “hysterically funny – I had put my funeral suit on to match the occasion and Alison was wearing a long dress.”
More seriously, Plant said at one point Krauss asked him: “Is there any chance you can sing the same thing twice, so I could find out how to sing a harmony on it?” He continued: “I said, ‘Oh!’ A light came on – ‘so, to harmonize, everybody’s got to know the part!’ I’d spent all my time up at the sharp end. ... With Alison, who’s the queen of duets, I had to learn to sing with somebody else.”
Listen to Alison Krauss and Robert Plant Perform 'Nothin"