Robert Plant has been on a long musical journey since the breakup of Zepplin back in 1980 and some of his early releases show a performer who was looking for direction and still finding his way as a solo artist without the backing of a band to support him. ‘Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar’, his tenth solo studio record, musically harks back to 1995’s collaboration with Jimmy Page ‘No Quarter’ with its eastern and world music reworkings of classic Zepplin tracks and it could be argued that after that collaboration Plant embarked on a much more world music inspired musical journey which led to award winning albums such as 2007’s ‘Raising Sand’ with Alison Krauss and 2010’s ‘Band of Joy’. Both those albums were more roots / Americana inspired and quite light and positive, whereas this new release with new band mates The Sensational Space Shifters has a much darker and enigmatic sound to it.

The album deals with Plant’s time away from home and his time living in the states ‘Turn it Up’ mentions “I’m turning into someone else I hear so much about” and shows how Plant felt the need to reinvent himself musically and find himself again after living so long there. Indeed in many ways we get the sense of Plant looking to step back from the solo artist role on this album and become a band member again as all eleven tracks are co-written by the band. ‘Somebody There’ is reflective and the most radio friendly tune on the record.

There’s still plenty of blues and soul on the record with ‘Little Maggie’ and ‘A Stolen Kiss’. Grungy guitar competes with ritti and banjo everywhere, but don’t be buying it looking for a balls to the wall rocker because that’s just what it isn’t. What it is is an amazingly well arranged musical ensemble with a musician at its heart who’s clearly comfortable with and relishing his ongoing foray into new musical experiences.

The Sensational Space Shifters are: Justin Adams – bendirs, djembe, guitars, tehardant, background vocals; Liam “Skin” Tyson – banjo, guitar, background vocals; John Baggott – keyboards, loops, moog bass, piano, tabal, background vocals; Juldeh Camara – kologo, ritti, Fulani vocals; Billy Fuller – bass, drum programming, omnichord, upright bass; Dave Smith – drums.

Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters Play the Ulster Hall Belfast on the 23rd November 2014.