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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'Band of Joy' (Rounder)
Artist - Robert Plant

Band of Joy is the latest CD from the music legend known as Robert Plant. in this run. Tapping the vein of American roots music and fully embracing it, Band of Joy is the natural progression of his career.

Here, he pairs with producer Buddy Miller - who was a bandmate on the Raising Sand tour - but the production is very much in the school of T. Bone Burnett, where tone and purity of the musical sounds provide a rich, almost haunting, quality. Mr. Plant and Mr. Miller gather a host of songs throughout the Americana landscape that run the gamut of country, blues, spiritual, and rock. Also included is an original Plant composition, "Central Two-O-Nine", that sounds as though it could easily have been retrieved from the long-forgotten Depression-era blues/roots archives.

Mr. Plant's voice has aged well with time, and he has learned over the years to modulate it well, providing a wider range of emotion and storytelling throughout the songs. He is still quite capable of unleashing his primal roar from the Led Zeppelin days (as evidenced for those fortunate to see the Raising Sand tour).

But on Band of Joy, he restrains it for the most part. That is not a liability, as his vocals instead run the gamut to evoke pain, haunting torture, playfulness, joy, bluesy soul, and even a hint of classic "High Lonesome" sprinkled in. What he ultimately proves here is that he is almost a more dynamic vocalist in his 60's than he may have been in his rock god heyday.

"Angel Dance" - a cover of a Los Lobos song - leads off the disc and was also the first single. It is a catchy, enjoyable interpretation. The aforementioned "Central Two-O-Nine" is also a standout, as is the traditional song "Cindy I'll Marry You Someday", and the haunting "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down". The last track - "Even This Shall Pass Away" - almost sounds like a leftover from the Mighty Rearranger sessions, but still fits in with the canvas of songs on this disc.

Since I was given this wonderful CD to review, Band of Joy has been a near-permanent fixture in my CD player. I feel like I continue to hear new things with each successive listen, and so that alone makes it a truly enjoyable disc. I think that this may very well be one of the best new discs I have heard this year, and deepens my respect for Robert Plant and the musical journey he has shared with us. [JD]