The Led Zeppelin legend follows his multi-Grammy Award winning collaboration with Alison Krauss with an album equally packed with folk and bluegrass. 'Band of Joy' occasionally drops into dawdling, dreary territory but for the most part it's a smart, considered and expertly delivered country rock album.
For his ninth solo album, Robert Plant has put together a new band, the Band of Joy, taking their name from his very first band in the 1960s and most notably featuring alt-country singer Patty Griffin, who provides adept backing vocals throughout. Now aged 62, though he may have lost his memory, Plant has lost none of the crackle and hiss that made his voice so recognisable on so many classic records.
Apart from upbeat opener 'Angel Dance', the rolling bop of 'Cindy, I'll Marry You Someday' and the rollicking oldschool rock of 'You Can't Buy My Love' echoing the sentiments of The Beatles, these banjo and electric guitar driven songs veer between lowly country ballads and dark, sinister atmospherics. Of course, the latter are the more successful. 'Monkey' is intense and menacing with its breathy vocals and reverberating guitar solo, while 'Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down' combines sparse plucking with looming harmonies.
On the other hand, 'Silver Rider' may be impressively deep and heavy but its snail's pace struggles to hold attention, while 'Harm's Swift Way' comes across as twee with its repeated "Oh me, oh my" refrain. 'Falling In Love Again' is dangerously close to being the sort of ballad that gives country and western music a bad name, were it not for the addition of some gorgeous soul-influenced male backing vocals.
Despite these few niggles, with 'Band of Joy' Robert Plant continues to outshine his contemporaries by making timeless music that tips its cap to the past while always pointing straight ahead at the future.