Led Zeppelin fans may be bummed by the fact that another reunion of the group remains an extremely distant possibility, but they can take solace in the news that Robert Plant recently wrapped up work on his first solo LP since 2010's Band of Joy. The disc (which has yet to be titled) was largely recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios and hits stores on September 9th. “It’s really a celebratory record, but it’s very crunchy and gritty, very West African and very Massive Attack-y,” Plant says. “There’s a lot of bottom end, so it might sound all right at a Jamaican party, but I’m not sure it would sound all right on NPR."
Many of the musicians on the disc played with Plant on his 2005 LP Mighty ReArranger, including keyboardist John Baggott, bassist Billy Fuller and guitarist Justin Adams, who has previously worked with Jah Wobble. (Contrary to a story in our print issue, Wobble himself isn't on the disc. We regret the error.) "I've also got this Fulani guy from Gambia [Juldeh Camara] playing one-string ritti," says Plant. "And I'm singing and wailing on top of everything."
Plant will be on the road with the Sensational Space Shifters throughout much of the summer and his future plans are unclear, though he has been talking with Alison Krauss about recording a follow-up to their 2007 disc Raising Sand. "Alison called me six weeks ago," he says. "She said, 'Should we make a new record?'"
Plant was stunned by her initial idea for the project. "She keeps saying, 'Now we've got to do it like Daft Punk,'" says Plant. "I said, 'Alison, get a clue. We've got great voices. We need to be getting ourselves around some really pretty songs if we sing together.' And Daft Punk? We can go out for dinner with Nile Rodgers, but that's about it."
This won't be the first attempt to record a Raising Sand follow-up. After they wrapped up their tour in 2009, Plant entered a California studio with producer Daniel Lanois and attempted to write material he could sing with Krauss. "We walked away from that and took our toys back," says Plant. "Dan and I wrote about five songs in two or three days up in Silver Lake. They were pretty good, but they didn't really lend themselves to a vocal collaboration, so I took them away. And then Alison went back to the fat guys with beards [her longtime band Union Station] and she made a pretty good record within that genre."
Many fans were surprised that Plant opted to work with Lanois on the (ultimately discarded) album instead of T-Bone Burnett, the producer and guitarist of Raising Sand. "I remember that guy," says Plant, with more than a touch of sarcasm. "He's very elusive and incredibly hard to find. I love him desperately. He's an allure to himself, and for that reason he has his own record label. He's also a very tall guy. I think we have to do 12 rounds in the boxing ring first."
Does that mean Burnett won't produce the possible next Plant/Krauss album? "I don't know," says Plant. "I don't think it would be a bad idea. We're all crazy. We can't have long memories about things that we didn't think were quite right or wrong. It's live and let live."