Back when he was the voice of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant’s enthusiasms included country blues, Middle Eastern music and Sixties folk. These days, his taste in songs remains the same, but the way he plays them has changed. While the inspirations for Dreamland — Bukka White, Tim Buckley, Jesse Colin Young — seem very Led Zeppelin III, there’s nothing Zeppelinesque about the music.
A disappointment? Not if you prefer Plant in ballad mode. There’s a lovely understatement to the White-derived blues “Funny in My Mind,” while the dreamy, symphonic “Song to the Siren” out-aches Tim Buckley’s original. Best of all is the lack of bombast: Plant’s slow-burning “Hey Joe” (a nod to folkie Tim Rose) leaves plenty of room for the guitars to cut loose, but stops short at letting them rape and pillage. And that restraint is what ultimately illuminates this album, from the tart take on Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee” to the dreamy, elegiac cover of Moby Grape’s “Skip’s Song.”