Robert Plant – Carry Fire (Nonesuch)

Robert Plant continues his post-Zep musical journey, accompanied by the same group of Sensational Shape Shifters who grace his previous album, 2014’s Lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar.

The roar that was Led Zeppelin has definitely gotten quieter over the years. Those looking for pile-driving riffs and thunderous drums should look elsewhere (perhaps the upcoming Jason Bonham show).

Plant’s Zeppelin roots are still very much on show, but, after moving back to England, and recording this album in Wales, Robert is more in synch with the rippling acoustic numbers found on Led Zep 3, rather than the deafening rocker of Number Four.

Having said that, the opening track is titled The May Queen, a not-so-subtle reference to Stairway To Heaven. But before you get your bustle in a hedgerow, be advised that this tune features a Seth Lakeman’s fiddle, rather than Mr Page’s guitar.

And that’s just fine by me.

Robert Plant has seemed to settle into a late-career groove, mixing English folk, American blues and Middle Eastern drones into his own sumptuous musical melange.

Vocally, he may not be screaming as if his lemons were being squeezed, but he is actually a much more accomplished, more nuanced vocalist now than he was in the 70s.

Tracks like Season’s Song, A Way With Words and Carry Fire simmer with Plant’s obvious love for the music he is making. There’s still a bit of the old hippie in him as he sings of the joys of love and things spiritual as flutes, mellotrons and fiddles dance around his voice.

I’m still seeking love and glory, just like I always do”, he sings in The May Queen.

It’s not all pastoral platitudes.

Carving Up The World Again…A Wall And Not A Fence and Bones Of Saints both address political concerns, taking aim at the nuclear arms race and the proliferation of guns on the black market.

Then there’s Bluebirds Over The Mountain, an old rockabilly tune by one Ersel Hickey, once recorded by The Beach Boys, now given a drone-y, dreamy slightly psychedelic feel and a co-vocal from Chrissie Hynde to boot!

Carry Fire closes out with a slow, ethereal reverb-soaked number called Heaven Sent, and yes, like much of the music on this new album, it does sound like it was a gift from the Gods.

Marty Duda