Since redefining rock and roll as frontman for Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant has recorded an expansive , albeit uneven, catalogue of music. But few could have predicted the true resurgence of Plant evoked by 2007’s Raising Sand, his Grammy-winning collaboration with Alison Krauss, and furthered by the follow-up, Band of Joy.
Band of Joy served as the name of Plant’s first band with Zeppelin drummer John Bonham; a collective of young Brits focused on soul and blues covers. The revived Band of Joy also focuses on musical interpretations, but in this case, Plant reimagines the work of contemporaries and nods to a few choice traditionals. The pastoral pulse of Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance,” the country-blush of Townes Van Zandt’s “Harm’s Sweet Way,” and the lateral throb of Richard Thompson’s “House of Cards” bristle with fresh energy that feels homegrown with care. The folk classic “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” stands just as tall as the newer compositions, haunted by spare instrumentation and Plant’s vocal intensity. Augmented by Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, and Darrel Scott, Plant submits to each sepia-toned track with a youthful wonder, and he easily makes each lyric and each nuance his own.
Robert Plant’s legend was cemented with Led Zeppelin, and little – if anything – could detract from the seminal group’s legacy. But the past is the past, and Plant is more content adding a bold exclamation point to his career with a spirited approach to well-worn songs. He has traded the leather of his youth for the corduroy of his golden years, and Band of Joy is pretty close to a perfect fit.
Band of Joy is out now on Rounder Records.