Robert Plant is highly amused by Paul McCartney’s dubbing the Rolling Stones “a blues cover band,” perhaps in part because his own old band faced similar criticism. “I don’t think there’s any fighting,” he says in the new episode of Rolling Stone Music Now. “They’ve known each other since 1963. They love each other desperately.” Still, if there’s any animus, he knows how to resolve it: McCartney, he says, “should just play bass with the Stones.”
The singer was joined on this episode by Alison Krauss, who just recorded the excellent new album Raising the Roof with him. Here are some highlights.
Plant gently mocks Eric Clapton’s vaccine criticism. “Good old Eric,” he says with a laugh. “He didn’t like the jab — but he had the jab.”
Plant and Krauss reveal details of an abortive collaboration with Daniel Lanois circa 2010. “The deal was to maybe even think about writing stuff with him,” Plant says. “I think there’s about six or seven ideas we pulled together.”
Krauss admits it’s hard to sing with Plant onstage sometimes. “The part that wasn’t fun was that he’s singing so off the cuff all the time,” she says. “It’s hard to harmonize if someone’s constantly in that state, which is magical if you’re not trying to harmonize, but if I’m trying to harmonize with it, it didn’t make it easy.”
Krauss has fond memories of the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou? and its soundtrack. “It showcased bluegrass music in such a beautiful way,” she says. “It was a really emotional thing.” She only really learned just how big a phenomenon it was when she shared a bill with veteran singer Norman Blake, on a tour sparked by the soundtrack. “He went out there to sing ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain,’ and the arena screams that came from him starting the show like that? I was blown away.”
Plant is mostly proud of the ups and downs of his post-Zeppelin career. “I was always trying to escape the shadow of what had happened to me between 1968 and 1980,” he says. “So I was trying so many different things just to expand myself without really worrying about taking along an audience that only wanted me to be on autopilot. I made good music and I made questionable music, but I did it all with great flurry. And there’s only a minor embarrassment now, maybe perhaps a few dodgy haircuts. I mean, when you’re on maximum rotation on MTV, it’s just, how the hell did that happen? From the hammer of the gods to, um, [1983 solo ballad] ‘Big Log.’”
Plant says it wasn’t easy singing the high notes in Zeppelin — and that the keys of the songs were based around Jimmy Page’s guitar playing, not his vocal range. “Quite often everything was in E because you got much more out of the bottom of the guitar,” he says. “I should have gone to one of those castrati schools in Northern Italy trying to get it right.”
The duo — who last released Raising Sand in 2007 — would like to keep the collaboration going this time. “We’ve still got about 6,000 songs,” says Plant. “So if it feels good and there’s nothing to stop the flow, once we get on tour, maybe we pull up in some little town somewhere and set up and record.”
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