They make an unlikely duo—the onetime lead singer of the hardest-partying rock band in the world and the soft-voiced contemporary bluegrass singer and fiddler. And yet somehow, the pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss makes perfect sense, if not on paper then certainly on the stage and in the studio. They’ve been collaborating for years and won five Grammies for their 2007 album Raising Sand, which appeared on some of the most prominent critical best-of lists that year. And Plant has gone on record saying that his work with Krauss permanently altered his musical direction and helped him reconnect with his own English country music background.
Both Krauss and Plant get to explore several American roots avenues in Raising Sand, an album of songs by such luminaries as Sam Philips, the Everly Brothers, Townes Van Zandt, and Doc Watson. But in the videos above, the pair—backed by a country band—mosey through two old Led Zeppelin songs renowned for their thunderous loudness and sweeping guitars. “Black Dog” (original here) begins with Jimmy Page’s unmistakable intro riff picked out on a banjo while Plant goofs around and attempts a two-step. It feels like we’re in for a novelty act, but when the two start singing harmonies, the strength of their musical bond is immediately apparent, even in what some might consider a butchering of an iconic tune. Krauss takes the lead vocal in “When the Levee Breaks” (original here) while Plant hangs back and strums a guitar. She turns the song into straight country, and mostly sells it, save the band’s thin, uninspired instrumental breakdowns and guitar solos that only vaguely recall the original. All-in-all it’s an interesting experiment in genre transposition, though I think we’re lucky to have been spared an album of Plant and Krauss re-inventing classic Zeppelin as contemporary Americana.