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Album review: Robert Plant's 'Band of Joy'

September 14, 2010 |  7:29 pm

Robert_plant_240_ The natural and the supernatural have long co-mingled in the world Robert Plant inhabits, as far back as his days fronting Led Zeppelin on through his bar-raising 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand.” So it comes as no surprise that those forces are also central to his new project, produced by Americana heavyweight Buddy Miller and recorded in Nashville.

As veteran Plant followers would expect, there's little here in common with the bulk of what's coming out of Music City these days. He's far more interested in the ancient roots of country and folk music, a haunted place where broken hearts rarely heal and where restless spirits find little peace.

Miller has provided Plant with a musical framework as deep as it is wide, not far afield from that which T Bone Burnett built for “Raising Sand.” Now that Krauss has returned to her longtime band Union Station, Plant calls on singer-songwriter Patty Griffin as his duet partner for seven of the 12 tracks, and she matches his yearning, questing vocals gorgeously.

It's elemental stuff, emotionally and musically, that fascinates Plant — whether it's the savage electric folk-blues treatment of Los Lobos' “Angel Dance,” the raucous Bo Diddley proto-rock approach for Texas R&B musician Barbara Lynn's “You Can't Buy My Love” or the achingly beautiful grand-scale balladry of Low's “Silver Rider.” He's also concerned more with quiet revelations than top-of-the-lungs proclamations, which may disappoint those only interested in hearing his Zeppelin roar one more time.

“Band of Joy,” which revives the name of the band Plant was in before Zeppelin erupted from the earth's molten core, feels more rooted to the earth than the consistently transcendent “Raising Sand,” but the singer effectively keeps a foot planted in each of those worlds.

— Randy Lewis

Robert Plant
“Band of Joy”
Rounder
Three stars (Out of four)

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