Archive for the Robert Plant Category

Best of 2010: 6-4

Posted in Mumford and Sons, Old 97's, Robert Plant, Top 21 of 2010 on December 30, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

#6 – Band of Joy by Robert Plant

Do I really need the introductory paragraph to explain who Robert Plant is?  The former Led Zeppelin front man is considered by many to be the greatest vocalist in Rock & Roll history and is widely recognized as a legend.  He threw his hat into the Americana ring in 2007 with Raising Sand, his duet album with Alison Krauss.  The results of that pairing was a handful of Grammy Awards, a few more Americana Music Awards, and almost universal praise for the pairing.

In a way, Band of Joy is an extension of Raising Sand.  Producer T-Bone Burnett is replaced by Buddy Miller, and instead of a duet partner in Krauss, Plant harmonizes primarily with Patty Griffin.  The results, however, are fairly similar as Plant continues to explore the subtleties of his voice instead of the raw power he displayed with Zeppelin.  He also once again displays his gift for interpretation as he takes songs from artists such as Low, Townes Van Zandt, Los Lobos, and Richard Thompson among others and makes them his own.  Even traditional tunes such as “Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday” and “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” are given the same, freshly haunting treatment as the rest of the record.

Robert Plant: Harm’s Swift Way (Buy Album)

#5 –Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons

This is sort of the reverse of the Kasey Chambers cheat.  Sigh No More, the debut from Mumford & Sons was originally released in Europe in October of 2009.  Fortunately, it carries a 2010 release date in the U.S.  I took some heat for being a latecomer to this group, but I think I’ve made amends with a Top 5 placement in this year’s list.  The album may have even placed higher if I’d immersed myself in it sooner.  I blame myself for ignoring the buzz around the London quartet for as long as I did.  I had somehow convinced myself that something with that much hype couldn’t be any good.

I was wrong.  Mumford & Sons were exactly as advertised.

This is a punchy folk/pop album that isn’t afraid to expand the genre by placing horns alongside banjos or crashing cymbals and distortion with acoustic guitars.  Another hallmark of their sound is their use of intricate harmonies that blend an early Avett Brothers energy with a Fleet Foxes style layering of voices.  Songs like “Winter Winds” and “Little Lion Man” grab you from the start while others like “White Blank Page” and “The Cave” slowly build up beautifully cathartic releases.  Grounded in folk, but not tied to any one sound, this is an album that you need to hear.

Believe the hype.  Don’t make my mistake.

Mumford & Sons: Little Lion Man (Buy Album)

#4 – The Grand Theatre by The Old 97’s

When I first started to really devour Americana and alt-country music about a decade ago, I constantly scoured various websites, magazines, and message boards looking for advice on artists who were considered “essential listening.”  When it came to essential groups, all of the usual suspects kept surfacing.  Out of those groups… Uncle Tupelo exploded, Whiskeytown imploded, The Jayhawks split, The Backsliders slid away… even Jason & The Scorchers flamed out (for 14 years… they came back).  Somehow, The Old 97’s outlasted them all and are still going strong after nearly 20 years.

The boys from Dallas released their eighth studio album this year and drew on their years of experience on the road to try to create an album that captured the energy and feel of their live shows.  The result is a mostly amped up guitar fueled album that features all the hallmarks of the classic Old 97’s sound.  You can read my full review of the album over at Country Standard Time or listen to my audio review with clips from several songs.  In the meantime… here’s “Champagne, Illinois” from the album… a song that was born when front man Rhett Miller decided to rewrite the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row.”

Old 97’s: Champagne, Illinois (Buy Album)

Weekend YouTube: Robert Plant

Posted in Robert Plant on November 28, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I’m starting to work this week on compiling my list of my twenty favorite albums of the year.  I’ve narrowed it down to about 25 albums so far and am working on culling it down to the final list.

Some of the discs (especially those near the top) have been locked into their spot for a while now.  But as I’m going back and re-listening to this year’s output, some others are still moving their way up.  One of those discs is Robert Plant’s Band of Joy.  I always really liked it, I just didn’t get to spend much time with it initially upon its release.  Now I’m catching up.

Here’s the video for the lead single, “Angel Dance.”

…and another video featuring Plant talking about the album.

Random Weekend Post: Last Year’s Album of the Year

Posted in Alison Krauss, Robert Plant on September 5, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last year’s winner for album of the year was also the big winner at the Grammy Awards, where it picked up five trophies. I give you Raising Sand by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.

Links and such…

Posted in Alison Krauss, Buddy and Julie Miller, Neko Case, Robert Plant, Scott Miller, Tennessee Shines, The Steeldrivers, youtube on December 9, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Just a few links to get you through the week…

* Scott Miller has made his new CD For Crying Out Loud available for pre-order at his website. Only 1,000 copies will be offered between now and December 17th online and at Miller’s shows… and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Orders placed before the 17th should arrive by Christmas. If you don’t get in on the pre-order, then you have to wait until March for the official release. All pre-order copies also include an enhanced CD feature with a twenty minute video on the making of the album that will not be on the official release. Oh yeah… Patty Griffin appears on the album as well. Get yours now.

* A couple of local acts have been added to this month’s edition of Tennessee Shines. Knoxville’s own Alex Leach and the Watauga Mountain Boys, Todd Steed and the Sons of Phere, and Christabel and The Jons will join Elizabeth Cook and The Hackensaw Boys for the show on New Year’s Eve. As always, the show will be hosted by Jim Lauderdale and broadcast live on WDVX.

* In my Top 5 post on Neko Case, I mentioned that she has just finished recording her new album. Well… the album now has a name (Middle Cyclone), a release date (March 3), and a killer album cover…

* March 3rd is also the release date for Buddy and Julie Miller’s newest effort, Written in Chalk. It comes eight years after their last collaboration, the self titled, Buddy and Julie Miller. Julie has been in ill health for the last few years, and it will be great to hear her voice once again. Julie wrote the majority of the songs on the album, and friends Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Robert Plant come along for the ride on the album. Here’s a taste of that 2001 release…

Buddy and Julie Miller: Forever has Come to an End (Buy Album)

* Speaking of Robert Plant… The nominees for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards were announced last week, and the world of Americana was well represented. The Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration that took home two wins at the Americana Music Awards in September, is now nominated for five Grammys… including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Country Collaboration with Vocals, and Contemporary Folk/Americana Album. Competition in the Americana category includes Joan Baez, Ry Cooder, Rodney Crowell, and Emmylou Harris.

* The biggest news for me on the Grammy front, however, is the news that The Steeldrivers have been nominated for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the song, “Blue Side of the Mountain.” As long-time readers know, Steeldrivers’ lead singer Chris Stapleton is an old high school buddy of mine, and I could not be more thrilled for the success he is having in Nashville.

Americana Music Awards: Nominees Super Post

Posted in Alison Krauss, Americana Music Awards, Drive-By Truckers, Hayes Carll, James McMurtry, Jim Lauderdale, Kane Welch Kaplan, Levon Helm, Robert Plant, Steve Earle, The Avett Brothers on September 11, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

It’s been a while since I posted anything about the upcoming Americana Honors and Awards Show. Since it’s coming up next week, I thought I’d better get back on the ball. You can find my previous posts on the Awards here. A full list of this year’s nominees can be found here (scroll down).

Last month, I started this whole series on the awards nominees by listing the five songs nominated for Song of the Year. Four of the five nominated songs come from albums nominated for Album of the Year. Since I wrote fairly extensively about the artists in that post, I’m not going to write about them again. Instead, here is a list of the nominees with another track from each album.

The nominees are…

Raising Sand from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Just Us Kids from James McMurtry
Trouble in Mind from Hayes Carll
Dirt Farmer from Levon Helm

Robert Plant and Allison Krauss: Fortune Teller (Buy Album)
James McMurtry: Bayou Tortous (Buy Album)
Hayes Carll: Drunken Poet’s Dream (Buy Album)
Levon Helm: Feelin‘ Good (Buy Album)

Out of these four… my vote probably goes to Hayes Carll. If I were betting, however, I would place my money on Levon Helm. I think the fact that he’s making a return from throat cancer, coupled with the fact that Dirt Farmer is truly a killer album will be enough to carry him here. He’s probably the favorite for Artist of the Year as well.

Speaking of which… the nominees for Artist of the Year are…

Levon Helm
James McMurtry
Jim Lauderdale
Steve Earle

John Prine won this award a few years ago when he was making his return from cancer. Levon should take this in a walk. Competition comes from tireless performer and Americana Ambassador, Jim Lauderdale. Lauderdale released two albums during the nomination period (2007’s Bluegrass Diaries and 2008’s Honeysongs), is the long-time host of the Americana Honors and Awards Show, and recently took up hosting duties for the Tennessee Shines radio show. Earle and McMurtry will always get a few votes for their outspokenness and activism. I’ll be shocked, however if Helm doesn’t win this one.

We’ve heard from Helm and McMurtry… here’s a taste of what Earle and Lauderdale were up to over the past year.

Jim Lauderdale: Honey Suckle Honey Pie (Buy Album)
Steve Earle: Sparkle & Shine (Buy Album)

The final group I’ll look at here is Duo/Group of the Year. The nominees are…

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
The Drive-By Truckers
Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch, & Fats Kaplan
The Avett Brothers

Judging by the fact that Plant & Krauss were also nominated for Album and Song of the Year, I’d say this award is theirs to lose. The Truckers put out another stellar album this January called Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. My favorite Trucker, Jason Isbell, left the group before the recording of this album, but the Truckers still deliver with another epic effort. Kane Welch Kaplan continues the trio’s signature sound of bluesy acoustic folk. The Avett Brothers didn’t release anything new during the nomination period, but they continue to tour relentlessly with their high energy show, pushing the limits of their sound and bringing their music to new audiences. The Avetts won this award last year, the first year the award was presented.

The Drive-By Truckers: Two Daughters & a Beautiful Wife (Buy Album)
Kane, Welch, Kaplan: That’s What I’ve Got (Buy Album)
The Avett Brothers: Tear Down the House (Buy Album)

There you go… the nominees for this year’s Americana Honors and Awards Show. The show will take place September 18th at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The ceremony will be broadcast live on XM Satellite Radio’s X-Country Channel.

Americana Music Awards Nominees: Song of the Year

Posted in Alison Krauss, Americana Music Awards, Hayes Carll, James McMurtry, Levon Helm, Robert Plant, Tift Merritt on August 5, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Above is a picture of Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller taken at the 2007 Americana Honors and Awards Show in Nashville. For the last few years, Jim has served as the host of the awards while Buddy has led the house band. Both gentlemen will reprise those roles again this year.

This June, the Americana Music Association announced the nominees for the Seventh Annual Americana Honors and Awards Show to be held September 18th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Between now and September, I’ll highlight most of the awards categories and honorees here on the blog. Today, we’ll start with the nominees for Americana Song of the Year.
And the nominees are…

Hayes Carll: She Left Me for Jesus (Buy Album)

Tift Merritt: Broken (Buy Album)
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Gone, Gone, Gone (Buy Album)
James McMurtry: Cheney’s Toy (Buy Album)
Levon Helm: Poor Old Dirt Farmer (Buy Album)

Hayes Carll – “She Left Me for Jesus” The first song on the list is also the one that generated the most controversy. Hayes Carll’s “She Left Me for Jesus” tells the common story of a man who lost his girl to another man. What makes this song different is that the narrator knows his girl’s new beau is named Jesus, and that he wears sandals and has long hair. He is not aware, however, that Jesus is really JESUS. He doesn’t even seem to know who the Biblical Jesus is. He also is not aware that his girl has not really left him for another man. She has just found a higher calling in doing the Lord’s work. Confused, our hero just doesn’t understand her decision and vows to find Jesus and have his revenge.

The humor of the song comes from the total obliviousness and ignorance of the narrator. We laugh at him the same way we laughed at Archie Bunker. We don’t laugh at the awful things he says. We find the humor in the total lack of awareness and misguided beliefs that lead him to say those things in the first place. Understandably, certain religious groups have had problems with the song (We haven’t played it at WDVX for that exact reason), but I find it to be all very tongue-in-cheek and quite hilarious.

Tift Merritt – “Broken” I wrote about Tift Merritt’s latest album Another Country recently here before her show in Knoxville. When I wrote that post, I left out the second nominee for song of the year because I knew I would get to share it with you here.

Tift Merritt’s “Broken” is an uplifting song that reminds the listener that the clouds always have silver linings.

“I wish I were a freeway
Laid out clearer than a bright day.
Run wide open down this causeway.
Like brand new.
But I’m broken.
And I don’t understand
What is broken
Falls into place once again.
And the kindness
Come and gather me in like a rainstorm
Again and again and again.”

A common theme, but given a fresh life here by Tift. She says the metaphor of “Gather me in like a rainstorm” comes from spending time on the coast of North Carolina. When the daily storms would move in toward the coast, families would gather together for comfort and safety from the storm. No matter how broken she gets, others gather her in with kindness and remind her that we’re never truly broken as long as we have a support system of friends and family to fall back on.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: “Gone, Gone, Gone” The third nominee comes from an unlikely combination of one of the sweetest voices in bluegrass and one of the most legendary voices of Rock & Roll. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss seem as mismatched as a musical pair could be. Listen to them sing together, however, and it all somehow makes sense. The two combined to deliver one of the catchiest and best sounding songs I heard over the last year with their cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Gone, Gone, Gone.”

The sessions were produced by T-Bone Burnett (O Brother Where Art Thou?), so there is no surprise that the record sounds amazing. The surprise is in the sound itself. Plant, known for his Rock & Roll wailings, did things with his voice on this record that he had never done before and says he didn’t know he could do. He pulls back just a bit, using restraint and playing a complimentary role. He taught himself to harmonize with Krauss and the lesson paid off.

James McMurtry: “Cheney’s Toy” The next nominee is another controversial track. James McMurtry’s scathing indictment of President George W. Bush is the most politically charged song on this list, and like Hayes Carll, that controversy has hurt airplay for this track.

The controversy, however, doesn’t stem from McMurtry’s political angst. He’s mined this territory before on tracks like the brilliant “We Can’t Make it Here” from 2005’s Childish Things. In fact, this sort of vitriol directed toward the White House is almost expected from him these days. The controversy, rather, came when some misunderstood (misunderestimated?) the song as an attack on the American Soldier instead of an attack on “W.”

“Keep smiling for the camera.
Keep waving to the crowd.
Don’t let up for an instant.
Stay the course and make your mama proud.
You’re the man.
Show ’em what you’re made of.
You’re no longer daddy’s boy.
You’re the man.
That they’re all afraid of,
But you’re only Cheney’s toy.”

By using Bush’s pet phrase of “stay the course” and referring to the subject as “daddy’s boy”… a reference to George H.W. Bush… McMurtry says he thought he made the subject of the song quite clear. One thing that is clear is that topical songs like this one seem to do well with many of the liberal leaning Americana voters.

Levon Helm: “Poor Old Dirt Farmer” Levon Helm’s Dirt Farmer is his first solo album in 25 years, and an album that almost never got made. Helm underwent surgery for throat cancer in 1998. After surviving 28 radiation treatments and a fire that destroyed over 80 percent of his barn studio in Woodstock, NY, Helm spent a few years rebuilding his studio and regaining his voice. Dirt Farmer was recorded in that rebuilt barn studio and provides a fitting showcase for Helm’s unique vocal instrument.

Like many of the songs on the album, “Poor Old Dirt Farmer” is a traditional tune like the ones Helm learned to play many years ago with his family. He didn’t learn this particular song until years later while working in Gatlinburg, TN on the set of the movie, The Dollmaker. If you get the feeling from listening to this song that Helm may know something about the life of that poor old farmer… you’re right. Helm grew up on a cotton farm in Arkansas. It was on that farm that he learned many of the tunes that would comprise most of his latest record.

Who should win? I honestly can’t decide, but you can leave a comment if you want to vote.

Edit: I’ve added a poll on this topic to the right of the screen. Feel free to vote in that as well.