Longtime readers will know that my all-time favorite artist is Robert Plant. The singer, nicknamed Manic Nirvana by his manager, has long followed his musical instincts rather than the pursuit of fame, glory, and the almighty Dollar. Robert seeks zen in the now rather than nostalgia for the past, a prerogative he explained in detail when I interviewed him a few years back. It's made for a most unpredictable -- and thus hugely exciting -- musical career.
Plant's latest adventure: An unusual gig at the inaugural WOMAD festival in Abu Dhabi. Taking a break from recording with Alison Krauss (read about the followup to "Raising Sand" here), Robert spent a week holed up in a rehearsal studio in Bath as an honorary band member of Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara. Justin was the guitarist in Plant's erstwhile band, The Strange Sensation; Juldeh is a Gambian griot, and a virtuoso of an instrument called the ritti. On their dynamic 2007 debut, "Soul Science," Adams and Camara created trancey, groove-centered blues -- think Muddy Waters meets Ali Farka Toure. (Try this sample of "Ya Ta Kayaa.") A followup album, "Tell No Lies," arrives in May. When I interviewed Justin last year, he described the duo's holistic fusion this way: "If you look for the roots of rock 'n' roll, you find them in the blues. And if you look for the roots of the blues, you'll find it in West Africa."
This weekend, Plant joined Adams and Camara (and Strange Sensation bass player Billy Fuller) in the United Arab Emirates for some mighty rearrangements of Zeppelin numbers ("Black Dog,""Rock 'n' Roll"), a few solo career songs ("Fixin' to Die," "Win My Train Fare Home"), and several cover versions (Dylan's "Corrina Corrina," Leadbelly's "In the Pines"). See below for video from the show.
This is the kind of thing Robert loves to do in his down time. By contrast, you'll find his contemporaries out on the golf course until, of course, they're forced to top up their bank accounts with another reunion tour.
Fixin' to Die
Win My Train Fare Home, pt. 1
Win My Train Fare Home, pt. 2
In the Pines