Plant continues musical shape-shifting
By David Bauder
The question hangs over an interview with Robert Plant, an obligation for the journalist and a depressing inevitability for his subject. Might as well get it over with.
Are you ever going to make music again with Alison Krauss?
All right, so there are probably other questions. The downside – admittedly small – to having an illustrious past in the music world is that many fans want you to live in it. Today, it’s easier and more lucrative for artists to recycle work and jog pleasant memories from the stage. For some, it’s the only way to earn a living.
The former Led Zeppelin singer has the luxury of choice and, at 69, he’s chosen to dwell among the handful of artists producing challenging new work late in their careers.
His album “Carry Fire,” out today, continues his collaboration with a band whose name, the Sensational Space Shifters, speaks to its versatility. Plant’s voice is a more intimate instrument now although he shows, in a duet with Chrissie Hynde, that he can summon the old wail.
“I just think what we’re doing here is just such a joy, it really is,” Plant said.
For the second disc in a row, Plant is working with the eclectic Nonesuch Records label. He essentially recruited himself, said that label’s president, David Bither, knowing that Nonesuch’s roster contains artists such as David Byrne, Randy Newman and Emmylou Harris, who have enjoyed past success but liked to push themselves in new directions.
The willingness to take chances defines the latter part of his career, from touring with old pal Jimmy Page and an Egyptian orchestra in the 1990s, to the Grammy-winning “Raising Sand” duet with Krauss in 2007, duets with Patty Griffin and two albums with his new band.
Plant won’t leave his Zeppelin legacy untouched during an upcoming, mostly sold-out theater tour of the U.S.
“This is entertainment, after all,” he said. “This is not just about me being a wandering soul on the edge of the popular mainstream. Of course. I’ll just tell ’em in a different way.”
Anyone expecting a jukebox of old hits has come to the wrong place, though, said Plant.