Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Sing Country Versions of Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” & “When the Levee Breaks”

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Decon­struct­ing Led Zeppelin’s Clas­sic Song ‘Ram­ble On’ Track by Track: Gui­tars, Bass, Drums & Vocals

Dutch­man Mas­ters the Art of Singing Led Zeppelin’s “Stair­way to Heav­en” Back­wards

Led Zep­pelin Plays One of Its Ear­li­est Con­certs (Dan­ish TV, 1969)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • AB says:

    Thanks. I heard these for the first time today. Wow. As prob­a­bil­i­ty equates per­fec­tion to the num­ber 1, so do I with Ali­son Krauss. Any num­ber mul­ti­plied by her would equal itself, only bet­ter. Pair her with any­one, from ABBA to ZZ TOP, and the sound is going to appeal to your inner ear. If you read this but have not lis­tened to the videos, please, stop what you are doing, go straight to the sec­ond video and put your fin­ger on the tri­an­gu­lar but­ton that equates to “play.”

    And don’t it make you feel bad when you’re try­ing to find your way home and don’t know which way to go…?”

    Delight­ful… entic­ing… splendid…resplendent. All of the syn­onyms I can think of for the beau­ty of her voice, in my mind, does not do it jus­tice, so I will just write her name again. Ali­son Krauss.

  • Beth says:

    it’s NOT COUNTRY!!! Blue­grass, folk, Amer­i­cana — not coun­try!

  • Beth says:

    Sor­ry, I just real­ized I sound like the bar own­er in the Blues Broth­ers who said “we got both kinds, coun­try and west­ern!”

    So, nev­er­mind. :D
    (But I’m still not call­ing it coun­try!)

  • Bruce Kelly says:

    That was blues based Rock and Roll.
    Not coun­try.

  • Eddie says:

    ” 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.”

    I’m astound­ed by the igno­rance dis­played in this sen­tence. Wow.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.