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What Robert Plant Hath Wrought

Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and a whole heap o' mainstream love for Americana and/or rootsy-rocky music: That was what the Grammys meant to me this year - the first time they've ever meant anything to me, I think. I generally hate awards and awards shows because, well, so many reasons, the main one being that they rarely reflect what's really good in the industries they're covering and are all either popularity contests, political bullshit, or, usually, a combination of the two. But the Plant-Krauss five-Grammy sweep for Raising Sand was different in that a usually meaningless awards show this time actually accomplished something worthwhile - moving Americana pretty solidly out of the tiny niche it's been in and into a bit bigger niche that may help thousands of worthy artists get a listen.

The Raising Sand juggernaut was, in my mind, the culmination of the mini-Americana-tsunami that producer T Bone Burnett began eight years ago with the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou?, which, of course, was dismissed by the country music industry as a fluke, even though it also won six Grammys and spent close to 100 weeks on the Billboard charts. Cripes, the cluelessness of the record industry knows no bounds, I swear. I think that's why the Grammys usually suck so hard - they usually reflect the bankruptcy of ideas and fearful thrashing about for phony-baloney sales fixes that characterize the typical Giganto Corp. "creative" leaders. Burnett gave ample warning of where tastes were heading nearly a decade ago. Did anyone at Giganto listen? Of course not. Americana artists spent the 2000s scratching for coin as usual, playing their dingy bars and county fairs and garnering audiences one fan at a time by having their music traded over the Internet among secret clans of worshippers like it was some kind of foolproof alchemy formula.

percy.jpgSo, what have the Zep-man and the Bluegrass Babe really wrought by dominating the 2009 Grammys? Well, first of all, it has raised Robert Plant in my estimation even more, if such a thing is possible. He kicks ass for two reasons - number one, he's got excellent taste in music. Anyone smart enough to realize the heir to hard, blues-based rock is modern Americana is damn cool in my book. And of course, Robert Plant is the ultimate exponent of everything that rocked hard in the '70s, so he has become the ultimate Exhibit A for my theory. The other reason is that he's the one who refused to join Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham in a Zeppelin reunion tour after a one-off tribute to Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun. My God, yes, Robert, yes. Thank you for putting an end to all that. You're an artist and don't need to dig up a stinking corpse to make a bucketful of filthy lucre on behalf of the greedmeisters of Giganto Corp. and the Live Nation/Ticketmaster Axis of Evil, cynically catering to the pathetic necrophilia of a bunch of 50-year-old "music fans" who haven't actually bought any music since Shout At the Devil came out.

Robert Plant doesn't need to go there. I mean, when's the last time Jimmy Page did anything worthwhile? Although I will never deny his key place in the development of rock, I'm betting he had no idea who Alison Krauss was until she showed up on Percy's arm one day.

Here's what Plant said about it backstage at the Grammys in an interview with the New York Daily News: "I came from a British approach to the great songs from America - to spectacular Black Americana. And Alison has patiently shown me much of the America I was never exposed to before. There are so many thousands of beautiful songs in the air. And America needs to know what this music is about. It's great to be considered part of a movement that is healthy and has some discrimination. I'm so pleased to be associated with that."

"Some discrimination." "America needs to know . . . " Ah, Percy. Still growing musically. That's why I love you, man.

Discrimination is exactly what's going to work from now on in an era when the mass, dumbed-down market is splintering under the weight of it own excesses. Robert Plant's rejection of Zeppelin money-grabs and his evolution into an Americana artist is nothing if not indicative of the yearning for truth and the discovery through American music of who we really are and where we came from, and how it all went wrong when Giganto Corp. stole it all (it was somewhere around 1974, I think).

The Making of Raising Sand

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From the Beachwood Country All-Stars to Dylan's Grammy Museum, the finest bones of rock 'n' roll are rattlin' 'round Don's Root Cellar.



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Posted on February 15, 2009


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