Relatively travel-free until now, the Tarbox Ramblers have recently become road warriors, getting out the word on their 2004 release A Fix Back East. But during a recent snowy afternoon in Boston, frontman Michael Tarbox is in his living room, fending off neighborhood kids who approach his front door armed with shovels, offering to dig his car out for pay.
"That's the third offer today," he says after apologizing for the interruption. "These kids, I don't know if they have school off or what the deal is, but there's all these kids just trooping around out there."
But soon enough, Tarbox and the rest of his blues-based trio will themselves be trooping around, on a tour that will include a return to Cleveland, where they played the Leadbelly tribute at Severance Hall last year, backing Robert Plant and newgrass queen Alison Krauss.
"That was cool," Tarbox says. "I mean, we play like cavemen, so I was very honored that they'd ask us to do it."
It wasn't the band's first connection with the Led Zeppelin icon, who, in true rock-and-roll fantasy fashion, heard the Ramblers' record, came to one of their hometown gigs, and liked what he saw enough to invite the band on tour.
"It was definitely an interesting thing to get a bit of his perspective on what makes the song work and what makes it all happen," Tarbox says. "A lot of his point of view was really about atmosphere, you know. And if you listen to some of those old Zeppelin records, there's a lot of atmosphere there.
"He really believes in rehearsal, and we're such, you know, kind of creatures of the moment. We just kind of throw things together. I mean, it's a different approach. And I'm pleased that somehow he could find something compatible in what we do. That's kind of a cool thing."