Robert Plant, Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch Records)
Knowing that the former Led Zeppelin singer’s latest musical fetish is 1920s/1930s country-blues, and seeing that one of this album’s tunes gave a “derived from” credit to Leadbelly instead of a nice upfront royalty to the guy’s descendants for “borrowing” all the lyrics of “Po’ Howard,” my stomach churned a little. Zep made its fortune blatantly ripping off small-timers (including Howlin Wolf, Anne Bredon, Burt Jansch, and even Leadbelly again on “Gallows Pole”), so having this tradition reprised might be unsettling to moral sensibilities. All that being said, though, I personally can’t blame Plant for fixating on antique music (I’m doing that myself), and there’s no arguing that the guy’s creative juices flow from a bottomless font. He’s still ribbing himself, too; the first line of “Pocketful of Golden” is “If the sun refused to shine,” and meanwhile, not everything here is stolen from old Columbia vinyl the way the vocal of “Poor Howard” is. No, the bulk of this stuff sounds like Mumfords had a baby with Tricky, the result a patchwork of banjo-folk, chill-electro and, well, Zep, because Plant can still pull off the shrill drunken androgyny that singlehandedly made 1970s music such a spectacle. The drearily predictable mourning of his youth happens at “Embrace Another Fall” and “A Stolen Kiss.” B- — Eric W. Saeger
As seen in the September 25, 2014 issue of the Hippo.