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Robert Plant: Band of Joy

C. Michael Bailey By

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Classic rock music from the mid-1960s to the mid-'70s produced three great voices: Rod Stewart, Roger Daltrey, and Robert Plant. Of these, the most incendiary was Plant. Never in the voice of a white man was there ever so much raw sexual power than that voice that sang "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," "Whole Lotta Love," "Gallows Pole," "Black Dog," or "In My Time of Dying." Jimmy Page may have been the genius, but he would have been nothing but a talented studio geek without Robert Plant's brilliant instrument.

Plant's voice was one that could not last in its 1960s pristine form. "Rock and Roll" takes its toll. It is no matter. Plant was always a quick study and he represents the evolution of the blues to its highest form. He and Page picked up "You Shook Me," where Willie Dixon left off, transformed Memphis Minnie's "When the Levee Breaks" into molten thunder, and and made Led Zeppelin's definitive blues statement with "In My Time of Dying." Plant forgot none of these lessons. He just began to dig deeper.

Robert Plant today is a fully mature artist with a lifetime of music experience. The blues, country, English folk, Teutonic myth; Plant's comfort zone is vast and he began to prove it on the Grammy Award-winning Raising Sand (Rounder, 2007), a collaboration with Alison Krauss. Sensual like burlap, tactile and aromatic, the music as all-natural, as organic as humus, and richly fecund as bog peat. The two voices melded into an American Roots perfection, maybe a little too staidly, but sublime nevertheless.

Plant loosens those ties with Band of Joy, named for the pre-Led Zeppelin combo of which he was a member in the mid-'60s. With a relatively small band that's large on talent, Plant navigates all of American Roots music without ever beating the drum too hard or loud. He and the band meld traditions—country and blues, folk and rock—never settling on one or the other, as if seasoning the overall meal with those tells that reveal the atomic source of the influence.

Band of Joy represents Plant's evolution with the blues from his earliest Zep days to "Silver Rider." A two-chord dirge, "Silver Rider" possesses all of the dynamics of "In My Time of Dying," updated to now. Earthier and more fecund, Plant's low register singing and Darrell Scott's booming, Neil Young guitar plow deep and close to the cotton, proving that the best favor Zed Zeppelin did was to disband after John Bonham's death, so Plant could grow into this.

Track Listing: Angel Dance; House of Cards; Central Two-O-Nine; Silver Rider; You Can't Buy My Love Falling In Love Again; The Only Sound That Matters; Monkey; Cindy, I'll Marry You Someday; Harm's Swift Way; Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down; Even This Shall Pass Away.

Personnel: Robert Plant: vocals; Patty Griffin: vocals; Darrell Scott: guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, accordion; Buddy Miller: electric guitar, baritone guitar, 6-string bass; Marco Giovino: drums, percussion.

Title: Band of Joy | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Rounder Records


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