From his time as frontman with the legendary Led Zeppelin, through various solo incarnations during the Eighties and Nineties, to wonderful post-Millennium albums alongside the Strange Sensation (Mighty Rearranger from 2005 is a genuine pearl) and Alison Krauss, Plant’s range and versatility continues to astound and inspire.
And now the grizzled old rocker’s “Indian summer” continues with the sublime Band of Joy (apparently the name of Plant’s pre-Zep band – who knew there was life before Zep? Hell, who can even remember that far back?), which combines almost equal portions of Rock, Gospel, Blues, Folk, and Country elements to produce one of 2010’s best albums.
I’ve never really been sure what Americana is, because its definition tends to change every time I see the word being used, but I reckon I’d not be too far off the mark to describe Band of Joy as Plant’s tip of the hat to that genre (see above combination of styles).
For a boy from the dirty grey facades of England’s “black country” region, Plant certainly has an inordinate and almost unfathomable amount of the American “southern man” present in his music. But then, he always did, and if the previous collaboration with Alison Krauss helped emphasise and remind us of that, then Band of Joy hammers the point home so strongly we’ll be a long time forgetting it.
But every style must have some substance and the key to Plant’s longevity is that amazing voice – yes it’s getting older and rather more frayed around the edges, but that merely adds to its character; Plant has become a master at getting the absolute most from it, and the songs on Band of Joy – quite a few of them being carefully selected covers – are perfect for him.
I could probably rave on about this album indefinitely but I’ll spare you, and it might just be a helluva lot easier and less painless if you just pick up a copy for yourself. You won’t regret it.
Highlights include ‘Angel Dance’, ‘Cindy, I’ll Marry You One Day’ and ‘Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down’, but both ‘Monkey’ and ‘Silver Rider’ are the real hidden gems here, and each demands repeated listening.