Plant revives Joy 

Led Zeppelin vocalist performs at Robinson on Thursday.

Thursday, in one of the season's most anticipated concerts, Robert Plant, the iconic voice of Led Zeppelin, comes to Robinson Center Music Hall. After piling up Grammy gold last year for "Raising Sand," his critical and commercial hit project with Alison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett, Plant's headed to town with new collaborators in advance of a Sept. 14 album release. He's calling the group and the album Band of Joy, a name resurrected from his pre-Zeppelin band with John Bonham. This time around, his bandmates include singer/songwriter Patty Griffin, producer and guitarist Buddy Miller, multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, bassist Byron House and percussionist Marco Giovino. The album, like "Raising Sand," is another dip into the Great American Songbook, with songs ranging from "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" to Los Lobos' "Angel Dance" to a pair of tracks from Minnesota indie rockers Low.

I spoke with Plant on Monday about shifting styles, Townes Van Zandt, Helena and more.

How's it going?

Excellent. I finally got back to my ancient home away from home. I'm staring across the Mississippi River. So, yeah, I'm rockin'.

The tour begins tomorrow night there in Memphis. So you've got some time to tour around?

Well, you know, I've got some stuff to do here and I've got some friends to see. I met Elvis many, many years ago when I was in Zep, so I got to know people who were around him too, and they know people who were around Jerry Lee. And I've got good connection with friends down in Clarksdale, Mississippi, too.

In a lot of ways your solo career has been if not about defying expectations then at least jumping around a lot stylistically. So I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that you're not following your massively successful collaboration with Alison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett with another record with Krauss and Burnett?

You shouldn't be surprised. And you wouldn't be surprised to know that sooner or later there'll be a Union Station record out and then there'll be another summer and another winter and there'll be another Plant and Krauss record out, I guess.

This is a wonderful world of music, especially with great hindsight and more and more knowledge and a little more maturity. It means that so many things are possible, even though you kind of lose the great panoramic vista of enormous success that comes or doesn't come. Every dog has his day, and my day is a different color quite regularly. My plan is to stimulate, so that I can sing with true meaning. I can't bluff it. To be a singer and just to repeat everything that he is and has been, I'd be a hell of a one-trick pony, so I can't do that.

If you get together with people and you can make stuff work in four hours, you know you're on course for making a blinding collection of songs in a new zone. That has a very familiar ring because that's what happened in 1968, 1969 and 1970 and on through the Zeppelin world. We never went back to the same spot.

On paper, though, this project looks similar to working with Burnett and Krauss: you, plus a really respected roots producer in Buddy Miller and a really respected female folk vocalist in Patty Griffin. But early reports indicate it's a departure, in terms of its sound, from "Raising Sand."

There's a lot more going on in the nether regions. It's a punchy record. It drives a lot. It's a little to The Electric Prunes, I guess. Occasionally, there's enough spook there to think you might be getting ready for a Cocteau Twins gig. Buddy wasn't involved in the recording of "Raising Sand." But he played with us throughout the tour. It was that relationship that I struck up with him at that time and the great dynamism of music — the love it all — that got us into this new zone. It's really powerful.


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