Around the time Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles a whopping $3,000 to reunite on “Saturday Night Live” in 1976, there was a brilliant piece of satirical writing wherein the reunited Beatles signed with Rounder Records and toured as opening act for Peter Frampton.
Well, at the time it would have been just as unbelievable to think that any member of Led Zeppelin would become part of the indy’s roster, let alone duet with the label’s f lagship act, Alison Krauss. But, to quote one of the quartet’s classics, it’s “been a long time.”
Plant’s first solo album for the label is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin III in its acoustic/electric mix. And, as Zeppelin frequently did, it dips into traditional sources, from blues to British folk tunes.
Guitarist Buddy Miller co-produced the album with Plant, and its feel is reminiscent of his Spy Boy work with Emmylou Harris – which, in turn, was inf luenced by her Daniel Lanoisproduced Wrecking Ball.
With the exception of “Central Two-O-Nine” – a Plant/Miller collaboration that the singer describes as “a throwaway of every great blues line I could think of,” comparing it to “Hats Off To (Roy) Harper” – the album is entirely covers. Sources range from Los Lobos to alt country group Milton Mapes, but most telling are two minimalist-grunge duets with Patty Griffin culled from “slowcore” band Low.
Even with such stellar players as Byron House (bass), Marco Giovino (percussion), and Darrell Scott (banjo, steel, mandolin), this is about atmosphere, not virtuosity. On Barbara Lynn’s “You Can’t Buy My Love,” one of the CD’s few uptempo songs, Miller’s half-step bends are reminiscent of early George Harrison. On Plant’s transformation of Townes Van Zant’s desolate “Harm’s Swift Way” (the most standard rock-band arrangement here), Miller’s ride-out consists of two repeating notes.
Moody, quirky stuff, but refreshingly so.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’11 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.