Before Robert Plant was the front man for Led Zeppelin, he sang for Band of Joy, a group backed by Zepp drummer John Bonham. Band of Joy is also the name of Plant's new cd. The question might be, is the name a tribute to his past or a nod to a certain continuity that marks all of Plant's work?
Plant's body of work since Zeppelin has certainly been diverse. He's done everything from cover old 50's rock and roll classics to his recent T-Bone Burnett produced collaboration with Allison Kraus. He has been at the very least musically adventurous.
I really like this new offering. It's mostly covers from a diverse catalog, everyone from Los Lobos, to Richard Thompson and Townes Van Zandt. There is still a Nashville feel to the cd, but its sweatier and bluesier. There's feedback and distortion, a swirling bit of tremolo. Alison Kraus has been replaced with Patti Griffin and there are accents of the Delta and the Mediterranean reminiscent of his previous cd, Mighty Rearranger. I love the songs Silver Rider, Can't Buy My Love, and Angel Dance.
The darker arrangements make the title Band of Joy seem out of place. But the cd does deliver joy. It's not a giggly kind of joy, but a belly laugh kind of joy. Though the settings are dark and rolling, Plant's voice hovers above it all. Because whatever a Plant cd should be, it should be about his voice, the one thing that marks the continuity in Plant's music. And against these settings, his voice is the light, blond as his hair. Blond joy. And not a cheap joy. It's dancing after you've admitted the worst and still find cause for celebrating. And if the gospel aspires to anything, it should be this brand of joy.