English singer/songwriter Robert Plant’s eleventh solo album, Carry Fire is a chronicle of a restless spirit and devoted seeker.
Plant’s rock god status is assured and yet he’s never rested on his laurels there.
Carry Fire is a fluid album and the folk/rock/ambient moods it summons up signal surprises from song to song. This is Plant’s second album with the Sensational Space Shifters and singer and band are a solid creative match. The group lives up to its name, supplying Plant with moods and grooves to fit his fancy.
The recording has a memorable entry with Bluebirds Over the Mountain, a post blues psychedelic rock romp with Chrissie Hynde. The vocalists blend unexpectedly well, and their voices flow seamlessly together. From there, Carry Fire has supple twists and tangents but no extremes of change. The consistent tone is dreamy arrangement.
Plant’s Valhalla-bound yowl of yesteryear is replaced by an elder statesman’s self assured and friendly vocal. His voice is one of the most singular in rock and roll and he leaves off at that, being concerned more with the creative chase. He projects happiness and contentment with the music and the songs are nearly unclassifiable, mainly identifiable through their arrangements and tempos.
It’s a rich and warm recording, shot through with mellow layers of acoustic guitars, strings and percussion (A Way With Words). Plant carries the questing spirit of Led Zeppelin with him still as the Berber rhythms and Arabic scales of the title track suggest. Many songs on Carry Fire are powered by ancient sounding tribal beats and acoustic rhythms. Drones, boogie rhythm and rockabilly inflected vocals get snuggly on the rollicking track, Bones of Saints. The late Brian Jones would approve.
Of course people have expectations from musical luminaries like Plant. He won’t confound them but pays lip service when appropriate. So, are there any elegiac glimpses of the pastoral countryside of ancient Britain, ala Ramble On and The Battle of Evermore? Not really, but the suggestion is there on tracks like Season’s Song and The May Queen.
The Plant of Carry Fire is elusive and laid back. After all, this is the guy who offered a US radio station substantial dollars to never play Stairway to Heaven again.