What can you write about Robert Plant that hasn’t already been said? His career has spanned an impressive almost 50 years beginning life as rock icon in Led Zeppelin. Carry Fire is his 11th solo album after 2014’s critically acclaimed Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar.
Opening track The May Queen brings rousing acoustic guitars, the Celtic beat of a barong drum and violin in this gentle folk ditty. Season’s Song is a reflective affair, a perfect sound for this time of year. Carving Up Against the World…has telling lyrics about building up defences “Call up the cavalry and double up the guard, plan for catastrophe inside the house of cards.” The persistent drum recalls a military beat song with a plaintive, haunting guitar solo.
A Way With Words is unsettling and disconsolate. It has a stripped back sound with an atmospheric piano. It is sung in a very low-key manner but don’t be fooled, this is still a powerful song. Title track Carry Fire has an exotic Middle Eastern feel to it. The album includes musical guests of Albanian cellist Redi Hasa, violinist Seth Lakeman and Plant’s backing band The Sensational Space-Shifters. There are some truly mesmerising moments on this beguiling love song and is one of my favourites.
Bones of Saints introduction recalls Led Zeppelin and ranks the album up a gear with a great bluesy guitar and thumping drums. Keep It Hid has a slightly jazzy feel mixed up with an electronic vibe and fervent lyrics: “Who you gonna call when the day is done? Who you gonna rock when your mother’s gone?” Bluebirds Over the Mountain covers an old rockabilly song from Ersel Hickey (also covered by the Beach Boys) with guest vocals from Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and more of that skilful violin. This is robust and self-assured.
Robert Plant has stated he gained inspiration for the songwriting process from the Brecon Beacons and the Welsh countryside (as he did with former Led Zeppelin albums). And his latest venture indeed shares some of the mythology and folklore of the Welsh hills themselves. An album full of maturity and contemplation for an artist who still has much more to give.