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- Posted on Jun 25th 2010 11:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
"It's fantastic music, even though I say so myself," Plant told the audience, minutes after the disc's final track, 'Even This Shall Pass Away,' had finished playing.
The album, named for a pre-Led Zeppelin group Plant fronted in the late '60s, shares much in common with 'Raising Sand,' the singer's Grammy-winning 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss and producer T Bone Burnett. Lean and twangy, caked in Delta mud and brimming with bad mojo, 'Band of Joy' again finds the rock legend immersed in the mythology of the American south, drawing on classic country, folk and blues.
In recent years, Plant hasn't simply reignited his passion for American music. He's also rediscovered the value of playing with Americans.
"In 1966, I was 17, and I cut a Young Rascals song for Columbia Records, and it disappeared without a trace," Plant said Thursday, explaining his aversion to jamming with Yanks. "It came out here [in the US] for about a second. And 41 years later, I finally decided it was worth working with American musicians."
"Brits seem to have a way of harnessing and lassoing beautiful American music and usually shafting it very badly," he added. "It took maturity and gray hair for me to realize that the essence of a lot of fantastic music may have come once from Europe, but it's certainly been looked after better in the more obscure parts of the American psyche."
Among the musicians Plant enlisted for 'Band of Joy' was acclaimed Nashville guitarist Buddy Miller, who served as co-producer. Plant called Miller a "curator of great music," citing as proof his collaborator's fondness for Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, pioneers of psychedelic rock, "that fantastic part of American music that we only really screwed very badly in England."
'Band of Joy' also features Patty Griffin, a singer whose voice Plant didn't initially know he needed.
"As this record developed, it took maybe 10 days before Christmas, and it was all very sweet and sounded like Moby Grape outtakes, and I was in absolute heaven," Plant said Thursday. "I took it home and realized there was nothing on it that kicked up. So after Christmas, we went into overdrive and begged Patty Griffin to come sing that great Cocteau Twins-type, Shangri-Las-type vocal thing that gives the whole collection a new-yet-old look."
With both Griffin and Miller, Plant felt the kind of chemistry he says is vital to any album.
"People say to me, 'How do we know what you're going to do next?'" he said. "I have no idea ever what I will do. I just know the first four hours when you meet musicians are the most crucial in your life. You know then whether there's something really magical there, or whether you're just churning it out."
"And I could never go anywhere near that latter condition," he said.