A few years ago, there were whispers around blues-rock singer-songwriter Beth Hart’s orbit about an album of Led Zeppelin covers, meticulously put together by superstar producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance). The body of work featured imaginative arrangements, A-list musicianship, and tasteful orchestral touches. The only thing missing was vocals.
Beth’s dynamically expressive singing would be the perfect fit. Yet, the Grammy-nominated blues-rock singer-songwriter was hesitant. She was enjoying the slow-burn jazz, soul, and blues settings of her recent albums, as this vibe reflected a sense of centeredness and composure she had painstakingly earned.
“Heavy rock has a lot of screaming and yelling, and a lot of my anger had died down over the years. I was scared to reconnect with it for this Led Zeppelin album,” Beth explains. “But a lot of things started coming up around the pandemic, and, as time went on, I felt willing to take that risk. I called my manager and said ‘I want to do it—I think it will be healing.’” The resulting 9-song album, Beth Hart: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin, produced by Rob Cavallo and featuring him as a guitarist, is an artistic feat—a viscerally rocking album that is both faithful and personal.
Beth has garnered international acclaim from critics, fans, and world-class guitar heroes. She’s topped the Billboard Blues charts six times, gone double platinum, and performed at such venerated venues as Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium, and London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall, among other esteemed stages. She’s also been the vocalist of choice for such superstar guitar players as Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and Slash.
Despite being a modern blues-rock icon, it’s interesting to note that Beth actually didn’t listen to much Led Zeppelin growing up. She mainly heard the band from her older brother, her neighbor, and through its ubiquitous presence on classic rock radio.
“Making this record was intimidating and humbling,” Beth acknowledges. “Through it, I became aware of what a genius composer, musician, and producer Jimmy Page is, and how amazing Robert Plant is. He is so educated, especially with Viking history, and he is a romantic but also in touch with his raw sexuality—that’s a delicate balance.”
Talk about this Zeppelin record first surfaced during sessions while making her last record, War in My Mind. To placate her producer and her manager, Beth sang an impromptu version of “Whole Lotta Love” from the control room at the end of the recording sessions for the last record. Everyone was floored by how she channeled the power of Robert Plant’s classic performance through the prism of her own artistic instincts and intentions.
Beth officially signed on to do the Zeppelin record during the pandemic. Producer Rob Cavallo, his engineer, Doug McKean recorded the album during lockdown through remote vocal sessions from an ad hoc studio at Beth’s house, built and set up by Beth’s husband, Scott. The sessions were a time of healing, as Beth reached down to the dark recesses of her soul to muster goosebump-inducing performances. “I had a lot of emotions inside when we were recording, but I was able to funnel my fear into anger,” she says.
The Beth Hart: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin setlist is a perfectly-curated sampling of the band’s majesty. It opens with “Whole Lotta Love”—taken from that very first control room recording session—and the track lunges forward with primal swagger. The 9-track album features a mix of Zep essentials and fan favorites. Beth musters empathic emotionality on the album’s elegant version of “Stairway To Heaven,” conjuring the aching beauty of the timeless tune with her own dramatic flair. “I wanted to connect to the feeling of the original track. For me, I started thinking of a woman who lost her way, and was in a horrible loveless place,” Beth recalls.
She bravely navigates the artsy funk stylings of “The Crunge,” easing through a rhythmic minefield with soul-drenched grace. On the medley, “No Quarter/Babe, I’m Going To Leave You,” she conjures the elegance of an Etta James performance. The album concludes with a luxurious reading of “The Rain Song,” replete with a theatrical string arrangement. “This is such a powerful example of the wide-ranging vocabulary of Jimmy Page. He took modern jazz, and atmospheric ambience and imbued it with just the right amount of grit so it feels meaningful and never pretentious,” Beth shares.
Reflecting back on the album and its enlightening recording sessions, Beth says: “I was able to exorcise a lot of demons making this record. It was also just a really special experience creating with such amazing, compassionate, and respectful people as Rob, Doug, and my husband, Scott.” She continues: “Art and music are about seeking the truth, and you need friends and people you trust around you when you do that. The overall experience just felt like being with family during very uncertain times.”