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Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Release Hypnotic Live Version of ‘When the Levee Breaks’: Listen


The nearly century-old country blues song has been a staple of the duo’s live sets for years.

By Gil Kaufman 

Robert Plant has mostly kept his Led Zeppelin past at arms-length since the group officially disbanded in 1980. But there are a few songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band’s catalog that he has revisited and revised over the years, including on his current Can’t Let Go summer tour with Alison Krauss.

On Friday (June 7) the duo released their mesmerizing live version of the country blues classic “When the Levee Breaks,” famously boosted to arena bombast levels on Led Zeppelin IV. In the pair’s take on the 1929 Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy song the track is transformed into a mix of Celtic dirge and mournful country ballad with a combination of hand drums and fiddles complimenting their intertwined vocals.

The version that they’ve been performing live together since 2007 has echoes of the Middle Eastern influences heard on the 1994 Page and Plant album No Quarter live album and it represents their first new music release since their Grammy-nominated 2021 album Raise the Roof. “Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan/ Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan/ It’s got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home,” Plant croons as Krauss doubles his vocals, giving the already ominous arrangement a more haunting feel.

String player Stuart Duncan takes a dramatic modal fiddle solo midway through as he goes toe-to-toe with a furious drum pattern before the four-minute tour de force ends with Plant’s signature “going down, going down now” wail. The song also features the duo’s crack live band, which also includes Duncan, guitarist JD McPherson, drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Dennis Crouch and Krauss’ brother, multi-instrumentalist Viktor Krauss.

The pair are performing “Levee” — along with some other reworked Zeppelin songs such as “Gallows Pole” and “The Battle of Evermore” — as part of the tour, which also spotlights their takes on a number of other classic rock, country and bluegrass standards from Raise the Roof and its Grammy-winning predecessor, 2007’s Raising Sand. The Can’t Let Go tour kicked off earlier this week and will hit the Mystic Lake Amphitheater in Prior Lake, MN on Friday night.

Listen to “When the Levee Breaks” below.