FUV's New Dig: Robert Plant
FUV's New Dig album spotlight: Robert Plant
lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar
Nonesuch / Warner Brothers Records
Robert Plant is an adventurer, possessing a passion and hunger for musical exploration. He has never hesitated to venture outside of his comfort zone or go beyond any boundaries that might have been imposed by his early audience.
Early manifestations of this willingness to broaden the palate can be found in the work of Led Zeppelin, where elements of American blues and folk, traditional music from the British Isles and Eastern influences permeated their thunderous and mighty majesty. As a solo artist, Plant continued to display this desire to expand his music’s scope — his 1982 solo debut, Pictures At Eleven, made it clear that he had no intention of playing it safe by rehashing old Led Zeppelin riffs.
But instead of completely turning away from his past, Plant found a way to incorporate elements of early work, reinventing it along the way. This willingness to reimagine himself and his art has intensified over the past 25 years, bringing us to lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar. Not counting his two albums with fellow Led Zep bandmate Jimmy Page and his collaboration with Alison Krauss, lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar is the 10th studio album from Robert Plant and the first with his current band, the Sensational Space Shifters.
This accomplished ensemble features four musicians who are holdovers from Strange Sensation, who backed Plant on 2002's Dreamland and 2005's adventurous Mighty Rearranger. Besides the conventional guitar, bass and drums, the band's arsenal includes African stringed instruments (the kologo, an ancestor to the banjo; the ritti; a one-stringed fiddle; the tehardant) and drums (bendir and djembe).
lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar was inspired by Robert Plant’s return to his English homeland after working and living in America in recent years. Sonically, the new album picks up where Mighty Rearranger left off, with a mystical and exotic feel. But what sets this new one apart is the presence of both African and Celtic influences, as well as the Americana traditions Plant dove into with Alison Krauss and on his last album, Band Of Joy. In fact, the opening song is a radical update of the traditional bluegrass song “Little Maggie,” which is then revisited in the album’s tribal finale, “Arbaden (Maggie’s Babby)."
Elsewhere, there’s “Poor Howard,” which evokes Leadbelly. A Welsh ballad, sung by Julie Murphy, lies within the reflective “Embrace Another Fall.” The meditative “A Stolen Kiss” might be the gentlest song in Plant’s catalog, while “Turn It Up” twists a Zeppelin-esque riff with African rhythms and a touch of electronica as Plant sings of listening to the radio while driving in America. There’s even a lyrical reference to Led Zeppelin in the opening line of “Pocketful Of Golden,” where Plant sings “And if the sun refused to shine...,” the opening line to “Thank You” from Led Zeppelin II.
lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar is a forward-looking amalgam of Robert Plant’s past experiences, and it’s one of the finest recordings of his storied career.