If Led Zeppelin didn't establish the conventions of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, the band certainly revolutionized them.
So when Robert Plant lamented his status as a living, breathing "rock 'n' roll cliché" in a recent conversation with Uncut, it's hard to argue with him.
But therein lies Plant's adoration for Alison Krauss. Plant says his collaborator's novel approach always inspires him to stand on his own, without the artistic crutches upon which he often relies.
He says he's emerged from sessions from each of their two albums — 2007's Raising Sand and the forthcoming Raise the Roof (due out November 19) — a better, less predictable musician.
"As an English singer, I usually reach for the normal pop/rock stuff that I might have done with Zep on 'Thank You'..." Plant explained. "But Alison comes from a different world. She is always at pains to tell me that while I was flying my kite in the back of a van she was seven years into fiddle competitions. She never went to prom because she was in the corner harmonizing when I was already becoming a rock 'n' roll cliché at a very early age."
Krauss is the total package as a musician, Plant says — she can write, produce, arrange, sing and play.
"She coaches me and gives me alternatives to bolster her vocal," he continued. "She hears the way you can embellish a melody. I was learning all that Chitlin' Circuit phrasing in the mid-'60s, so I never knew about strict melodies. I was very happy to put myself into the position of being a student to see if I could do it."
The new album finds the two covering songs by the likes of Merle Haggard, Allen Toussaint, the Everly Brothers, Ann Briggs, Geeshie Wiley, Bert Jansch, Lucinda Williams and others.