Album Review: Robert Plant – Band of Joy

By on Thursday, 2nd September 2010 at 12:00 pm
 

Not so long back it seemed as though Robert Plant was a spent force creatively. While his reunion with Jimmy Page threw up some decent material, you got the impression that both artists were doing little more than treading water.

Then Plant decided to embark on his own personal, study of the history of American music, inviting collaborators Alison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett to join him on the ‘Raising Sand’ album. That collection proved to be a revelation, with the team selecting and re-working songs from a surprising array of artists, from the The Everly Brothers to Tom Waits, and being awarded the Grammy for Album of the Year. When the time came to record the follow up though, they found that the chemistry was no longer there. Rather than make do and try to force out an album for the sake of it, the decision was made to call it a day and quit while they were ahead. This left Robert with the task of trying to assemble a new line up to continue his project. Drafting in Nashville stalwart Buddy Miller to produce and add guitar, and Patti Griffin as a vocal foil, he set about crafting a somewhat darker, more muscular sequel to ‘Raising Sand’.

One of the more striking things about Plant’s voice these days is the way he exercises restraint when he might previously have let rip. There are times here where he lowers his voice to a whisper and the album is all the more compelling for it. Opening with an upbeat cover of Los Lobos’ ‘Angel Dance’ (video below), the album jumps between styles, tempos and moods, taking in bluegrass, doo-wop, honky tonk and the haunting gothic Americana of ‘Silver Rider’ and ‘Monkey’, two Low covers and two of the standout songs in this collection. It’s interesting to note that Plant named the album after the pre-Zeppelin band he played in with John Bonham, whether he sees this as a rebirth of sorts is unclear but he certainly sounds rejuvenated here and it’s not surprising that he turned down the offer of a (potentially very lucrative) Led Zeppelin reunion tour in order to continue mining the rich vein of form that he’s found.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LREVZSIcL8[/youtube]

While not every song here hits the spot, ‘You Can’t Buy My Love’ and ‘Falling In Love Again’ in particular, sound out of place, the high points, such as the previously mentioned Low covers and ‘Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down’, a traditional song previously performed by Willie Nelson and Uncle Tupelo, make up for these dips. Plant’s voice throughout is engaging and he’s backed here by some strong performances from his band, not least multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, who have come together to make an album that both builds on what went before and creates anticipation over what might come next. You can watch the man speak about the ‘Band of Joy’ album in the interview video below.

7/10

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dbdp-TkO__A[/youtube]

‘Band of Joy’ will be released 13 September 2010 on Decca.

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One Response

9:14 am
25th September 2010

A more than worthy successor to ‘Raising Sand’.

Read my full review of ‘Band of Joy’ here: http://realgonerocks.blogspot.com/2010/09/robert-plant-band-of-joy.html

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