As word filtered through that Robert Plant’s sessions with Alison Krauss for the follow-up to 2007’s multi-million seller Raising Sand ended abruptly, a question mark hung over what the erstwhile Led Zeppelin frontman would do next. As it transpires, his new album Band Of Joy is still rich with the atmospheric Americana of its predecessor, but with a few notable tweaks.
The chemistry might not have been right for a seconding outing with Krauss, but Patty Griffin steps into the female vocal foil shoes with style, although her contributions are restricted largely to back-up harmonies, as opposed to being a full-on duet partner. However, the key collaborator here is Buddy Miller, who takes over from T Bone Burnett as producer, and is the lynchpin of the studio sessioneers (also named Band Of Joy, after one of Plant’s earliest groups).
Recorded at Woodland, the Nashville studio now owned by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, and with a heritage that made it a favourite among veteran country stars such as Chet Atkins and Glen Campbell, the location would appear to have been integral to Plant soaking up over a century of American music. Plant seems to have set out to deliver an evocative history lesson in the form of some mesmerising tunes whose impact is heightened with each play.