"Rich Woman" was first recorded by Mc Kinley Millet (as L'il Millet) and his Creoles in 1955, for Specialty Records."Please Read the Letter" was first recorded for the Page and Plant album, Walking into Clarksdale, in 1998.Raising Sand won Album of the Year at the 2008 Americana Music Honors & Awards and at the 2009 Grammy Awards.The two songs written by Gene Clark—"Polly (Come Home)" and "Through the Morning, Through the Night"—were originally recorded by Dillard & Clark for their 1969 album, Through the Morning, Through the Night.An accomplished guitarist, he demonstrates a mastery of forms on the instrument dating back 25 years and beyond, his arrangements making sly reference to a variety of styles including acoustic folk ("After All These Years"), Merseybeat ("Stunned"), rockabilly ("Pressure"), early-'60s pop/rock ("Hula Hoop"), Buddy Holly-style '50s pop/rock ("The Law of Average"), and even bluegrass ("Shut It Tight").This proficiency in what became known as roots rock in the '80s looks forward to his production work for such similar-sounding clients as the Bo Deans, Marshall Crenshaw, and Los Lobos.
The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling about 112,000 copies in its first week, the highest chart position for either artists' solo work, although Plant had previously reached #1 several times with Led Zeppelin. Burnett quickly betrays the influence of Bob Dylan, with whom he toured in the Rolling Thunder Revue, both in his nasal tenor (which is distinguishable from Dylan's in that Burnett employs far more conventional phrasing) and in his lyrics, which often take the form of story-songs written in a seemingly free-associative manner, such that, while they seem like sardonic parables, their actual meanings are murky if not non-existent.Nevertheless, the Los Angeles-based Burnett takes the tarnishing of Tinseltown as at least the backdrop of many of his surreal stories, and the names contribute to that.The guest instrumentalists were also praised, with BBC saying that the guests "make this a stunning, dark, brooding collection, comparable in tone to Daniel Lanois' masterful job on Dylan's Time Out Of Mind." "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)" was released as a single and won the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 50th Grammy Awards and was nominated for the Americana Award for "Song of the Year".The song "Killing the Blues" was #51 on Rolling Stone On February 8, 2009, the album won all five awards for which it was nominated at the 51st Grammy Awards: Album of the Year; Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album; Record of the Year (for "Please Read the Letter"); Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (for "Rich Woman"); and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (for "Killing the Blues").