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Robert Plant strikes
Robert Plant - Band of Joy
Review by Tony BonyataPrior to taking the world by storm in the '70s with his band Led Zeppelin, singer Robert Plant (along with Zep's drummer John Bonham) was in a more humble and straightforward group called Band of Joy from 1967/68 that specialized in their own signature take on soul and blues numbers.
More than four decades later Plant has not only resurrected the Band of Joy moniker for his newest music collective, featuring singer Patty Griffin, guitarist Buddy Miller, multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, bassist Byron House and drummer Marco Gionino, but also uses it as the title for his most recent album. The music on it, however, is not only worlds away from his late '60s combo, but light years from the thundering rock of Led Zeppelin. Plant purposely avoids any Hammer-of-the-Gods nostalgia trip in favor of building on the strengths of his 2007 T-Bone Burnett-produced Grammy Award winning Raising Sand album with bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss.
Like Raising Sand, Plant digs deep into the roots of Americana music on Band of Joy with a strong emphasis on Appalachian-woven folk. Although Krauss doesn't appear on this outing, Plant strikes gold again by pairing his vocals with folk singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. While Griffin's involvement is less pronounced than Krauss' earlier on, her hushed vocals blend meticulously with Plant's on the haunting numbers "Silver Rider," "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down," the ethereal "Monkey," as well as on the sturdy cover of Richard Thompson's "House of Cards." Plant and company also revisit other great covers such as the traditional North Carolina folk-song "Cindy, I'll Marry You Someday," which actually hearkens back to the acoustic backwoods vibe of Led Zeppelin's own reworking of the centuries-old folk song "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" on their 1970 number "Gallows Pole." Plant also turns in a rollicking and upbeat take on Barbara Lynn's 1965 R&B single "You Cant Buy My Love." Surprisingly, the one number that Plant co-penned (along with Buddy Miller), "Central Two-O-Nine" sounds as if it could be one the oldest songs on the album - with folkey banjos and mandolins evoking the Deep South in the mid-19th century.
It's ironic that the further Plant travels back for his musical inspiration, the more he distances himself from his own past. And with his two most recent Americana-inspired albums, Band of Joy and Raising Sand, Plant has found a new and exciting path to follow... hopefully for some time to come.
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