My husband surprised me with a copy of Robert Plant’s Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar…

Leave it to Bill. He stubbornly buys me music every Christmas even though I have told him many times that I like to buy my own. I must admit, even though I often discourage him from gifting me with new CDs, he often chooses interesting music. Some of the albums he’s bought for me have ended up being favorites. No, Bill doesn’t have any musical talent himself, but he does have good taste in music. With that in mind, I’m now listening to the album he got me for Christmas this year, Robert Plant’s Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar. This album was released in 2014 and comes in a nifty, environmentally sound cardboard sleeve. It consists of eleven tracks, all of which were co-written by Robert Plant. The Led Zeppelin legend is in fine voice, too.

Plant is joined here by his band, The Sensational Space Shifters. We have Dave Smith on drums, Billy Fuller on bass, drum programming, omnichord, and upright bass, Liam “Skin” Tyson on banjo, guitar, and backing vocals, John Baggot on keyboards, loops, moog bass, piano, tabal, and backing vocals, Juldeh Camara on kologo, rite, Fulani and vocals, and Justin Adams on bendirs, djembe, guitars, tehardant, and backing vocals. Together, this band sounds kind of like Ireland meets Africa. I hear elements of Irish music mixed with the tribal sounds of Africa, with a smattering of trance music. Bill said he heard it on a recent Air France flight and decided I had to hear this album, which he describes as music that might be right at home at your favorite “hot” restaurant, where the food is cutting edge and the company is sophisticated.

The first track is the very interesting “Little Maggie”, a traditional bluegrass song that has been arranged by Robert Plant and his band. I have to admit, I was intrigued by it. A rolling banjo percolates under the exotic world music sounds of pulsating drums and flute. I enjoy bluegrass. I enjoy world music. I like Robert Plant and his otherworldly vocals. “Little Maggie” gets things off to a smashing start.

The next song is the edgier “Rainbow”, which sounds like something Plant might have recorded in the 80s, only it’s been updated with exotic drumbeats and electric guitars. It’s definitely an edgy song, but one that you can think to as the chorus of backing vocals blend together behind Plant’s subdued lead. Not that Robert Plant has lost his rock star prowess… it’s just that on this song, that energy is under the surface, ready to pounce.

The Irish sound is back, sprinkled with a bit of trance with “Pocketful of Golden”. Here, I hear a little bit of old style Zeppelin edged rock with delicate Irish details on the choruses. Although Plant is definitely not fronting Led Zeppelin, I hear little shards of that iconic sound, especially in this song.

Plant has a couple of female guest singers on this album. On “Embrace Another Fall”, Plant offers sublime vocals from Julie Murphy, who sings in Irish and has a fantastic voice. The liner notes include a link to Murphy’s site, which I will definitely check out because she has an enchanting sound. I think I want to get to know her better. On “Poor Howard”, Nicola Powell offers background vocals, adding a touch of feminine to an otherwise banjo heavy tune.

The beautiful ballad, “A Stolen Kiss”, features a gorgeous melody and Plant’s usually edgy rock voice mellowed into something sensitive and loving and romantic. Yet the song is about how elusive true love is… and it’s also where this album gets its name.

Each song on this album is more and more interesting and engaging. Each song captures my senses in a unique way. I have a feeling this album is going to become yet another favorite, courtesy of Bill and his stubborn insistence on introducing me to cutting edge music instead of the old stuff I usually favor. I really like the way Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters have creatively married elements of hard rock and trance with folk music, Celtic sounds with African sounds. I like the fact that his unique stamp is on each song.

The final song on Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar is called “Arbaden (Maggie’s Babby)”. It fascinated me from the very first electric hum. This track has intricate and complex rhythms, jangling guitars, and sound effects. It’s short and hypnotic and mesmerizing.

Needless to say, I recommend Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar if you’re interested in something new by a venerable talent. Robert Plant demonstrates with this latest effort that he’s still awesome. And yes, I did thank Bill once again for not listening to me when I said I didn’t want music for Christmas.

Robert Plant discusses the making of Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar.