As Robert Plant picked up one of the big prizes at a Nashville awards ceremony this week, 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?"