Robert Plant and Alison Krauss unveil revamp of "When the Levee Breaks"

Plant and Krauss have been making great music for two decades.
2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival / Erika Goldring/GettyImages

On the surface, the pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss always seemed like an odd one. If nothing else, the two collaborating had to be a gimmick, right? 17 years, two albums, and a handful of awards later, music fans can be sure that Plant and Krauss are legit.

The pairing was not truly that strange, though. While Krauss might be a newgrass icon, and Plant one in terms of hard rock, both are vocalists whose voices match extremely well. They also have one important thing in common: Their love of music stems from the American south.

There is more R&B to Krauss's music than one might assume and there is more Americana to Plant than old Led Zeppelin tunes might imply.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss release a live version of "When the Levee Breaks"

The duo's latest single has a history as well. "When the Levee Breaks" is much older than the excellent version Zeppelin churned out at the end of Led Zeppelin IV in 1971. The country-blues track was penned by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy in 1929, inspired by a Mississippi River flood in 1927. The Zeppelin cover is far different, so much so that all the members of Led Zeppelin have a songwriting credit as does Memphis Minnie.

The original tune is actually sung faster than the Zeppelin cover. Plant, Jimmy Page, and the rest of the band slowed the song down and brought out much more of a bluesy feel. The ache of the words is shown better.

Next. Brilliant live albums from the 1980s. Brilliant live albums from the 1980s. dark

It is this version that the newly released Krauss and Plant mirrors. The song was recorded live as the duo has been performing the track in concert for many years. The harmonizing of the voices is so well done that if one did not know the history of the two singers, one might assume the duo has been singing together for 40 years.

Is the track better than the original or the Led Zeppelin version? Yes and no. The tune is different, and to be fair, one-upping the Zeppelin track is probably impossible. The song is definitely worth a listen, though.

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