Robert Plant Records in Nashville

The December Rolling Stone has a piece on Robert Plant, the former Led Zeppelin wailer who is now recording an album in Nashville with T. Bone Burnett and Alison Krauss.

Plant was interviewed near the famous crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil in return for the ability to play dazzling blues on the guitar. He describes seeing Brownsville’s Sleepy John Estes singing on a tour that came through England while Plant was a teenager in the early 1960s. “When I saw Sleepy John Estes and heard that voice–part pain, part other-wordly–I went, ‘I want that voice!’ I can do that plaintive moan better now than when I was 19, in Zeppelin.”

He also didn’t mind stealing Sleepy John’s songs. Led Zeppelin recorded “Custard Pie,” an uncredited cover of Bukka White’s “Shake ‘Em On Down,” with lyrics from Sleepy John Estes’s “Drop Down Daddy.” And they put out “Moby Dick,” which written and first recorded by Sleepy John Estes under the title “The Girl I Love.”

Wonder if Plant revered the old bluesmen enough to send them any money? Sleepy John Estes died in poverty in Brownsville, and only in death has been recognized by his hometown. And Plant? “Now I’m free,” he says. “I can drive through Mississippi, use my credit card, and nobody even looks at it.”

Actually, the people who see Robert Plant’s credit card probably wonder how someone who looks like a homeless person–Plant was repeatedly rode hard and put up wet–actually has a credit card. 14_336_full.jpg

3 Responses to Robert Plant Records in Nashville

  1. J says:

    He seems to have coped quite well with his journey to obscurity. I wonder if his new album will be countryish. God knows we could use some good, authenic country music.

  2. Journey to obscurity? If having 20 million people vie for an opportunity to purchase tickets for one’s former band’s reunion concert is obscurity, let me at it!

    As for being rode hard and put up wet, I’d say for a 59-year-old man who has lived most of his life on the road, he looks pretty good — at least as good as Possum George Jones looked at that age.

    And for music pilferage? There are thousands of similar stories in Nashville. I’m not trying to excuse Mr. Plant, but to his credit he did record in Tennessee, and not in any number of other possible locations. My guess is the sessions — which lasted a good while — brought a pretty chunk of income into the city.

    The initial song released to Amazon is brilliant, a credit to the vocal gifts of both Mr. Plant and Ms. Krauss. It’s a shame you can’t appreciate it for what it is without making snarky comments about a performer who has — for good or ill — had a tremendous impact on popular music worldwide. I’d be willing to bet history will remember Mr. Plant long after either of us is utterly forgotten.

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