Prior to 2008, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant had just one Grammy to his name, sharing the 1998 trophy for Best Hard Rock Performance with Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page for a track from their collaborative LP Walking Into Clarksdale. When the 51st Grammy Awards were over on February 8th, 2009, Plant had a total of seven, thanks to a much more unexpected collaboration with fiddle player and vocalist Alison Krauss, whose own Grammy haul was much more extensive.
At the 1991 Grammy ceremony, Krauss won the first of what now stands at 27 gramophone statuettes total with her Best Bluegass Album for I’ve Got That Old Feeling. At the time, she was 19 and the second youngest winner ever. Today, Krauss’s award tally ties her with producer-musician Quincy Jones and is just five away from the all-time Grammy champ, conductor Sir Georg Solti.
Musician T Bone Burnett produced the eclectic Plant-Krauss LP Raising Sand, which was released to rave reviews in October 2007. Praised for the raw, vibrant production as well as the seemingly oil-and-water blend of Krauss’s delicate, angelic delivery and Plant’s rough-hewn vocals, Raising Sand had already earned Grammy gold in 2008 with the chugging “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),” which earned a Best Pop Vocal Collaboration with Vocals Grammy a full year ahead of the album’s other honors.
On the night they won Album of the Year, Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album, Record of the Year (for Raising Sand‘s “Please Read the Letter,” a tune originally recorded for Page-Plant’s Walking Into Clarksdale), Best Country Collaboration With Vocals (“Killing the Blues”) and Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals (“Rich Woman”), Plant and Krauss performed a medley of the latter song mixed with the previous year’s winner.
Where “Rich Woman” (a 1955 release for L’il Millet and the Creoles and later cut by Canned Heat) was dark and ethereal, by contrast the pair’s “Gone Gone Gone,” was brighter and moved at a quicker pace, featuring Burnett on rockabilly guitar during the live Grammy performance, and certainly matching the energy of the Everly Brothers’ original.
To date, Raising Sand is one of only four country-related LPs to win the all-genre Album of the Year Grammy. The first was the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack in 2003, with the Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way following in 2007 and Taylor Swift’s Fearless following in 2010.
The latest country album in the running for the top Grammy prize is Chris Stapleton’s CMA award-winning Traveller, which puts him in direct competition with Swift’s first full-on pop LP 1989, as well as Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and the Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness.
The 58th Annual Grammy Awards will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 15th, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.