Robert Plant

Band of Joy (Rounder)

Phases & Stages

Robert Plant

Band of Joy (Rounder)

Without co-star Alison Krauss or marquee Texan producer T Bone Burnett, Robert Plant's latest solo outing suffers the expected sequel slump. Band of Joy lacks the subtle grace and evocative restraint of 2007's Raising Sand, even as local ringer Patty Griffin's lilting harmony tops Richard Thompson's "House of Cards" and the stellar Townes Van Zandt encore "Harm's Swift Way." There are two notable exceptions, Low's solemn "Silver Rider" and gothic "Monkey," that transport the Zep frontman to his time of dying, a slow motion apocalypse that even at a whisper evinces the Judgment Day catharsis of Alan Sparhawk's Retribution Gospel Choir. For the most part, however, the 62-year-old singer settles for mediocrity ("You Can't Buy My Love," "Cindy I'll Marry You Someday"), and the lonesome ranger gallop of "The Only Sound That Matters" won't make a household name out of Milton Mapes' Greg Vanderpool anytime soon. The sole original, "Central Two-O-Nine," never quite makes it to the gallows pole between Plant's Brit-folk and the Appalachian Americana of co-writer/co-producer Buddy Miller, whose echo guitar oversaturates the otherwise playful Canterbury tale "Angel Dance." Like Griffin's own 2010 gospel LP, Downtown Church, Plant takes on the traditional "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" as if he's heard the calling but is not yet ready to fully stand up to the challenge.

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