Plant not con­tent to live in the past

His new al­bum ‘Carry Fire’ takes a new di­rec­tion

Texarkana Gazette - - ENTERTAINMENT - By David Bauder

NEW YORK—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,” 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 like David Byrne, Randy New­man and Em­my­lou Har­ris who have en­joyed past suc­cess but liked to push them­selves in new di­rec­tions.

When Plant first started work­ing with his cur­rent band, his man­ager in­vited Bither to a show in Mex­ico City so he could see what they were do­ing.

“If he wanted to rest on his lau­rels, he’s got some pretty big lau­rels to rest upon,” Bither said. “How many peo­ple in the world have been beg­ging them to put the band back to­gether and go out on tour? But he wants to live in the present, maybe even in the fu­ture, and that I think is an in­cred­i­bly ad­mirable trait for an artist.”

Money, unimag­in­able money, is be­ing left on the ta­ble. But with Plant’s net worth al­ready es­ti­mated at $170 mil­lion and likely only to go up as new gen­er­a­tions dis­cover Led Zep­pelin, what’s the im­per­a­tive?

“He hon­ors the past,” Bither said. “He’ll tell you that. What he’s done he’s very proud of. But that seems like be­ing on some kind of a tread­mill for him, al­most like a ring of hell, to be do­ing the same thing over and over and over again.”

The will­ing­ness to take chances de­fines the lat­ter part of his ca­reer, Plant said. He’s en­joyed all of it, 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.

Ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite muse, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, was an in­spi­ra­tion for the Plant-nar­rated song “Carv­ing Up the World Again… A Wall and Not a Fence” on his new al­bum.

“It’s not just Trump,” he said in a phone in­ter­view from Lon­don. “It’s ev­ery Trump that’s ever been. Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion and ev­ery cul­ture has sev­eral Trumps. It’s just some are a bit heftier than oth­ers. And you’ve got one hell of a heft over there.”

For the most part, the at­mo­spheric songs, with some of the Mid­dle Eastern in­flu­ences Plant has long been fond of, delve into the mys­ter­ies of per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. Plant chuck­les at the men­tion of one lyric’s ref­er­ence to “danc­ing days,” a wink to old fans. His voice is ex­pres­sive in a qui­eter way, both a con­ces­sion to age and re­flec­tion of lessons learned dur­ing his work with Krauss.

Sched­ul­ing is­sues and some re­ported false starts have pre­vented a se­quel to “Rais­ing Sand.” Plant said he’s com­pil­ing a list of old songs he’d like to record with the blue­grass star. “I do get let­ters from her, emails, (say­ing) ‘I don’t like it with­out you,’” he said. “And I don’t like it with­out her. But I like it with these guys. It’s just a vol­cano of joy play­ing with these guys.”

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.

“If peo­ple want to come and get into this groove, it’s great,” he said. “If they don’t, there’s plenty of other things they can do. Bowl­ing’s a good one. Or bingo.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Singer Robert Plant poses for a por­trait in Mi­ami. The for­mer Led Zep­pelin singer has a new al­bum, "Carry Fire."

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