Friday, October 14, 2011

Robert Plant says he's forever committed to Buddy Miller

As Robert Plant picked up one of the big prizes at a Nashville awards ceremony last night, he did more than just thank his touring bandmate Buddy Miller: He pretty much committed himself to having Miller involved in all of his musical projects from here on out.

Plant delivered his remark at the Americana Music Association's annual Honors and Awards ceremony, while accepting the Album of the Year award for his Band of Joy CD. Miller earned two awards of his own at the ceremony.

Before Plant and Miller co-produced the Band of Joy album released last year, they were already touring bandmates from the Raising Sand tour with Alison Krauss. Plant said it on that 2008 tour that he basically decided on sticking with Miller into the uncertain future: "When we toured the Raising Sand tour, I said to the forces that be, I said, 'We can't go anywhere without Buddy Miller,' and I'm never gonna go anywhere without Buddy Miller, ever."

The live audience in Nashville cheered Plant's comments about their hometown hero, who in a few minutes would be named Artist of the Year -- ironically, beating out Plant in the category.

Earlier, upon winning Instrumentalist of the Year, Miller had proclaimed himself "really, really not that good." He said, "I feel like I get away with murder with what I do." Miller mentioned Plant by name, along with Emmylou Harris and Jim Lauderdale, thanking these "wonderfully, incredibly talented people" for letting him "sneak in there behind them."

Plant was much more complimentary of Miller's abilities as an instrumentalist. To him, Miller is "the consummate player of all the licks and the beauty and the soliloquy of great American music that I'd ever heard in my life."

Plant thanked not only Miller in his acceptance speech but also Krauss and his more recent female collaborator, singer Patty Griffin. Said Plant, "When we were making the Band of Joy album, it got to Christmas a year or so ago, and I said to Buddy, 'There's something missing, and it's getting a bit too pastoral.' And so, I have to thank Patty Griffin for really turning the record round."

The British singer also recalled a pivotal encounter with Americana music from even before he was a teen-ager." When I was 12, I heard 'The Mountain's High' by Dick and Dee Dee," he said. "I never looked back. I just kept dreaming of American music and coming over here, and I did. I stole a great deal with my old companions."

The Band of Joy, with Greg Leisz filling in for the absent Darrell Scott, performed the song "Monkey" -- but not before Allman Brothers Band leader Gregg Allman got in a quick comment: "Did you ever think you'd be sittin' here in the Ryman [Auditorium] watching Robert Plant and the Band of Joy?"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Obituary: Guitarist Bert Jansch dies at 67; influenced Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin songs

Photo credit: Chris Barber
Folk musician Bert Jansch, one of the most revered figures in British folk music, has died. Reports say his death today followed a bout with cancer that saw Jansch being forced to cancel some live performances recently.

Of particular note to Led Zeppelin fans is Jansch's 1966 album Jack Orion, which contains some instrumental work that influenced Led Zeppelin's own Jimmy Page.

The disc begins with an instrumental track on acoustic guitar and banjo called "The Waggoner's Lad." On Led Zeppelin III released in 1970, certain passages of Page's guitar playing between the verses of "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" echo some of Jansch's licks on this track.

More significantly, the flip side of Jack Orion includes a song called "Blackwater Side." On this track, Jansch sings a vocal melody over the reprise of a guitar arrangement heard on the earlier album cuts "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "The Gardener." On the debut Led Zeppelin album released in 1969, Page's guitar instrumental "Black Mountain Side" is essentially an instrumental rewrite of "Blackwater Side" complete with Page playing both the melody Jansch sings on "Blackwater Side" and much of the same guitar arrangement.

In interviews, Page mentions the popular British folk group Pentangle was an influence on him. In that group, Jansch played alongside fellow guitarist John Renbourn and vocalist Jacqui McShee.

In a May 1970 interview with that group conducted by Lemon Squeezings friend Rick McGrath for Vancouver's underground newspaper Georgia Strait, Jansch and McShee expressed their frustration with Page's sole writing credit on Led Zeppelin's "Black Mountain Side."

McShee said, "Actually, I think it's a very rude thing to do. Pinch somebody else's thing and credit it to yourself. It annoys me. ... In all the English papers at home he's always talking about Bert. Says he's influenced. I mean, why say that and then put something on an LP and say Jimmy Page?"

Putting it more simply, Jansch, laughing, said of the Led Zeppelin track, "That's my song."