Continual Evolution

Robert Plant Robert Plant

Robert Plant’s ‘Band Of Joy’

By Alan Sculley

Robert Plant

Any Robert Plant interview these days almost has to include an inquiry about his interest in a Led Zeppelin reunion.

But one really doesn’t need his words to know Plant’s thinking about the issue. His musical projects over the past three years – the period since Led Zeppelin reunited for a one-off concert as part of a memorial event for the late head of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun – pretty much make Plant’s
intentions clear.

First came the 2008 CD, Raising Sand, which paired the former Zeppelin frontman with Alison Krauss performing a mostly low-key collection of rootsy bluegrass/country influenced covers. The CD went on to win the 2009 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Now Plant has released a new CD, Band Of Joy (Rounder), and is taking his exploration of American roots music in new directions, with the help of such stellar band members as guitarist Buddy Miller, mandolin player/multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott and singer Patty Griffin.

“I’m doing an interview with you because I am very proud of what I’m doing now in the present tense,” Plant said, once again shooting down any prospect of a Zeppelin reunion.  “That really is my entire raison d’etre …I’m on a
journey here.”

To Plant, he thought it was un-derstood that the 2007 reunion show would be a one-off event.

“I don’t think we’ve ever thought of it going any farther, to be honest,” Plant said. “I think the great thing about it was that we could do it, and we did it really well with dignity and with excitement. The idea
of traveling around the sports facilities of the world is something that would have to be thought about really,
really carefully.”

There have been plenty of rumors that Plant’s former bandmates, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, are both interested in a reunion tour, and even rehearsed for an aborted reunion with drummer Jason Bonham (son of the late Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) in 2008. The three band members reportedly were considering other singers to replace Plant.

Plant, though, has moved on, first with the highly successful
Raising Sand.

And while the Band Of Joy CD is not a part two of Raising Sand by any means, Plant sees it as a next step in his musical journey into American roots music.

“Obviously there’s a continuum because I went back to Buddy (Miller) and back to Nashville, where I knew I could get all of the jobs done in one place, and I knew there was a fund of people and a great understanding of music,” Plant said.

“It’s a great learning curve for me, but it (the music on Band Of Joy) is a lot tougher and it’s much more tricky than Raising Sand” he said. “It really does growl and clunk and it comes out of the church. It’s Sunday morning and definitely
Saturday night.”

The album project (which is named after Plant’s pre-Led Zeppelin group, Band Of Joy) began with Plant recruiting Miller, a key band member on the Raising Sand tour, to produce, choose songs, recruit musicians and coordinate recording sessions for the new CD.

In December, a first recording session was held, and after initially being excited with the results, Plant realized the direction of the music was a bit off. That’s when the Band Of Joy CD took on a whole
different facet.

“Initially we created a very pastoral sound,” Plant said. “We were making a very pretty record. And over Christmas I realized I’ve got to have some sinew in there. I called Buddy and I said we need to pump this thing up a bit and get even more dynamic interplay between the kind of mood of the songs. He suggested would I think about Patty (Griffin), and I said ‘Of course.’  Patty’s got just the right voice to bring the edge onto the record, to create a bit more of a cutting edge. And also, (there was) a change of material, with a lot more kind of spook, so the second session became much tougher and much more psychedelic, if you like.”

Band Of Joy is indeed a con-siderably heavier – and at times spookier – work than Raising Sand, as Plant and the band rumble through tracks like “Angel Dance” (by Los Lobos), “Monkey” (by the group Low) and a rocked up version of Townes Van Zant’s “Harm’s Swift Way.” Griffin makes her presence felt strongly on sev-eral tracks, adding a tasteful wail to Richard Thompson’s “House Of Cards” and a version of Barbara Lynn’s “You Can’t Buy My Love,” that falls somewhere between galloping Brit-pop and thundering blues. About the closest Band Of Joy comes to the folkier moments of Raising Sand is on the CD’s lone original tune, a Plant/Miller collaboration called “Central

“This is not a folk album and this is not bluegrass,” Plant said, summing up the CD’s sound and feel. “This is some kind of rumbling juggernaut lifted out of all those sort of pre-determined, categorizing situations. It just takes off.”

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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