‘It wasn’t white, clean and neat’: Long after Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant is still mixing it up

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Robert Plant’s newest post-Led Zeppelin outfit is a canny blending of blues and world music influences, adding spicy new flavors to a post-blues aesthetic that goes back to his earliest successes in music.

“I don’t like it to be too fancy, or too charming,” Plant says in this clip. “I like it to have the edge that I believe in — the brittle abstraction that stops it from being coffee-table music.”

The Sensational Space Shifters can be seen, in a way, as the natural outgrowth of everything Plant did with Led Zeppelin, which crafted a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career out of a fresh alchemy involving urban blues, Celtic folk and other world music elements. The Space Shifters grew out of the core band that backed Plant on 2002’s Dreamland and 2005’s Mighty ReArranger.

For Plant, the desire to mix it up goes back to his earliest days of musical discovery — when artists like 1930s-era star Charlie Patton were still considered too risque for polite company. That sense of danger, of other worldly intrigue, stuck with Plant.

He’s still searching for his own version of it today.

“All the kids in school wanted to be in this other world, where it all made sense,” Plant says. “It wasn’t white, clean and neat. I wrote a song called ‘White, Clean and Neat’ (on 1988’s Now and Zen), and it was all about how parents had to make sure that I didn’t even know anything about that shit. Little Richard was about as far into that zone as you could go — because it was quite intimidating for our parents, to suddenly have a house full of music that they couldn’t understand. And neither could we! We were just being visited by it, you know.”

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