After posting a number of “desert island disks” a few years back, it was inevitable that the island would have to get larger. Or at the very least, supply lines would need to be extended. In the past few years a number of artists and albums have come through my speakers, making my previous list incomplete without them.
Raising Sand must now go on my list. It’s the anticipated 2007 collaboration between rock god Robert Plant and bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss, produced by studio divinity T-Bone Burnett. Forgive me for being the audio geek here, but this is the ultimate tremolo album. Is the songwriting great? Yes. Is this singing great? Yes. Do they cover a Tom Waits song? Yes, awesome. Arranging, musicianship…. yes, yes, give me more…
But the thing that stands out here for me is the production, so velvety sweet… a dumpling of goodness, all driven by the judicious and doctoral use of tremolo on the guitars, and maybe other stuff too.
Let’s put it this way, when I got new studio monitors and wanted to break them in and get a reference, this is one of the albums I had to listen to from start to finish. It also forced me to understand my tremolo pedals more, and showed me how they (and their digital counterparts) could be used to add character to tracks.
When I was working on Catch the Squirrel, I tried to incorporate a fraction of that tremolo flavor on some tracks. In subsequent years I spoke to producers who said no one cares about such psycho-acoustic textures. Nonsense. Such textures matter more than ever in a landscape of $200 sound card rock and Garageband slapstick that is nothing more than regurgitated loops.