Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Record Reviews

Phases and Stages

Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Live at the Wetlands (Dare) Finally. After enduring more than a decade's worth of teenage guitar messiahs with character and soul to match their hairless faces comes a true prophet. Like a heavenly parade of American music's immortal black performers, Robert Randolph, a 24-year-old Jersey boy, is a product of the church: Pentecostal, House of God. Daddy deacon, momma minister, and young Bobby, the hottest pedal steel demon in the land. Applying the poor congregations' pipe organ substitute -- dubbed Sacred Steel -- to a naif's first-love worship of the Allman Brothers and SRV, this rock & roll innocent (Hendrix wasn't taught in Sunday school) is the real deal on 13 strings. Stealing the thunder from MMW's John Medeski and the North Mississippi Allstars on last year's The Word, Randolph, his cousinly rhythm mates, and a Hammond organ man torch the house with this farewell to a beloved NYC nightclub. Delivering six songs in 70 minutes, the boys open with 12 meltdown minutes of "Ted's Jam" and never look back. Solo after solo, Randolph sings like a train whistle through the humid Georgia night. "Pressing My Way," with its plaintive cry, one can almost make out the steel's words, even when Randolph starts vocalizing his version of "Motherless Child." Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips" staggers somewhat, unfocused, but "I Don't Know What You Come to Do" is Sunday service all the way: up, down, in yo' face. "Tears of Joy" closes the night's first set with 10 minutes of "Elizabeth Reed Tied to the Whipping Post." Jam acts all deal in extraneous notes, and when Randolph's ability to spin those notes into liquid gold gets poured in the right mold, God help us. (Robert Randolph & the Family Band open for Widespread Panic at the Backyard Friday, July 19, and headline Antone's Saturday, July 20.)

***.5

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