Best known as the former frontman of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant’s recent delvings into country and folk may seem an odd choice for the seminal rocker. However, Plant’s genre-crossing experiments will come as no surprise to those familiar with Zep’s affinity for folk-blues – particularly their cover of the traditional “Gallow’s Pole.” Following his successful Raising Sand collaboration with bluegrass darling Allison Krauss, Plant teemed up with folk star turned producer Buddy Miller for his new solo album, Band of Joy.
An almost perfect marriage of Robert Plant’s psychedelic sway and Buddy Miller’s freight train of rocked up Americana, the aptly titled Band of Joy features the backing band of Miller, Patty Griffin, Bekka Bramlett and Darrell Scott.
A rhythmic interpretation of Los Lobos’s “Angel Dance” opens the album with slinky bluegrass instrumentation snaking through a thunderous blues-rock clamor and clang.
The moody wailer “House of Cards” follows and is greatly enhanced by the backing howls of Patty Griffin and Bekka Bramlett.
“Central Two-O-Nine” sounds like an old-fashioned folk ballad, but is a new original Plant co-penned with Buddy Miller.
The new Plant/Miller arrangement of the traditional song “Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday” is spectacular, but Plant’s deadpan vocal delivery lacks the spirit necessary to carry the repetitive chorus.
The retro pop style of “You Can’t Buy My Love” and The Kelly Brothers cover “Falling In Love Again” are also an ill fit for Plant’s voice. Rather than resurrecting the ironic charm of his Honeydrippers era, Plant simply sounds like he’s singing his age and he really shouldn’t. Yet these are the only flaws in this diamond of an album.
The ominous, driving rhythm of “Monkey” and the chillingly sparse rendering of traditional folk ballad “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” are much better settings for his unusual voice.
Overall, Band of Joy is a worthy successor to Raising Sand and I look forward to hearing the wonders Plant has in store for us in the future.
The SoundCloud.com stream of “Angel Dance”, which was uploaded with the explicit permission of Rounder Records, has been removed due to false infringement claim filed with Soundcloud.
Buy @ Amazon