Please Read The Letter – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

I’ve mentioned this track before when talking about the renaissance of Robert Plant. In the Four Sticks via No Quarter post just a couple of weeks ago I cited it as an important work because it fed into one project from another. Forgive me if I repeat myself a little.

See I did get all excited about ‘Un-Led-Ed Page & Plant‘, then I dissed ‘Studio album of new material Page & Plant‘ in almost the same breath. Walking Into Clarksdale wasn’t a complete loss. It’s got this jewel of a song on it… But not in this format. No. When Percy teamed up with Alison to make the really quite raucous Raising Sand he didn’t have to go all the way back to his hey day to bring one of his own tracks to the party. There is less than a decade between the two albums but the song has grown all sorts of depth, meaning, features and soul in the intervening years.

I’ll be the first to admit that a great way to raise the stakes on any song is to have Alison Krauss sing on it. She’s an exquisite talent. And yet, that’s not the fundamental thing that happened on the long walk from Clarkesdale to the Sand. In normal circumstances, the utter eradication of Jimmy Page’s guitar from a track is usually considered a bad thing. A heresy. A sign of a sick mind at work.

Wait! No! Pitchforks down! Hear me out Believers! Jimmy Page stunk up the original version of this song with some mediocre playing and dull dreadful uncharacteristic tones. It’s just doing nothing good at all. It’s a fart in a lift of a track.

I’ve posted the link for the Walking Into Clarksdale take of Please Read The Letter at the very bottom of this article. It’s an offensively bland MOR plodding rock song. It’s just got nothing to recommend it. Compare that to the opening acoustic chord and spacious slow drum beat of the AK&RP version. Atmosphere. Warmth. Mood. Then the lyrics. Really deep and meaningful lyrics. Well… Relatable and emotive at least. I mean, they’re the same lyrics as before but now you ‘hear them’.

Then there’s the voices. It’s Robert Frikkin’ Plant and Alison Krauss. Taking turns, then harmonizing. Generously making space for one another and complimenting the natural tones in each others unique, honed, seasoned signature styles.

It’s a beautiful torchsong for a love lost. Shot through with pathos, regret and sadness. I want to give them both a cup of tea and leave them to it to sort out their differences. I fear it’s too late. Robert and Alison are too far gone. It’s all water under the bridge now. They’ll never get back what they once lost. It’s all in there. Really poignant, a truthful fake. Pure theater.

I’ve thrown in Gone Gone Gone and the title track of the album to back up that claim of raucousness… Because. We should all raise a little sand from time to time.

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5 thoughts on “Please Read The Letter – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

  1. Yes to all of this, man. Krauss is brilliant and that Plant and Krauss album has been a favourite of mine and on regular rotation since it was released. The Jools Holland video is incredible, eh? Look at them. I know Plant keeps talking about moving forward and ruled out anything further long ago, but I always hoped they’d do another album together. It’s absolute perfection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I first heard of this pairing I though what? After I heard it I knew “what” very quickly. It’s a song I just kept playing over and over…I then bought the album and they went together perfectly.

    I agree with you about Pages guitar…there is no soul in that version.

    Liked by 1 person

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