For all of the acclaim it received, there's no denying that No Quarter was a tentative reunion for Page & Plant, containing only a handful of new songs that were scattered among many reworked old favorites. Since its supporting tour went well, the duo decided to make their reunion permanent, setting to work on an album of entirely new material. Taking the world music dabblings of No Quarter as a cue, Page & Plant tempered their eclecticism with a healthy dose of their monolithic guitar army, hiring Steve Albini, the indie rock producer notorious for his harsh, brutal recordings, to helm the boards. In other words, it sounds perfect on paper -- groundbreaking veteran artists still taking chances and working with younger collaborators who would challenge them. If only Walking into Clarksdale actually played that way. It's certainly possible to hear where the duo was intending to go, since the circular melodies, Mideastern drones, sawing strings, drum loops, and sledgehammer riffs all add up to an effective update and progression of the classic Zeppelin sound. The problem is, the new sound doesn't go anywhere. There's potential in this metallic worldbeat rock, but only a few cuts, such as the stately "Most High" and the shimmering "Shining in the Light," realize it. Much of the album disappears under its own mass, since their are no well-written songs, catchy riffs, or memorable melodies to support the sound. And that's what makes Walking into Clarksdale so frustrating -- you can hear the potential, and even enjoy the album on the musical surface, but there's nothing to make you return to the album once it's finished. And that ultimately means that the album simply reiterates the promise of the reunited Page & Plant instead of fulfilling it.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine