'ACL' Live Shots
Robert Randolph & the Family BandSunday, Sept. 29, 7:30pm
Starting things off with a long, soulful warm-up, Jersey pedal steel savior Robert Randolph evoked pre-Civil War African-American spirituals using 20th-century amplification. With a singing tone recalling Eric Johnson, Randolph's driving 13-string pedal steel guitar resonated with the mostly, but not entirely, jam-fan audience during the first few tunes. That is, when things worked, as the 24-year-old was bedeviled by technical gremlins. Later, Randolph's teacher Calvin Cooke jumped onstage, with the student strapping on an acoustic guitar, but this too was restrained by sound troubles. Randolph wisely switched back to pedal steel, successfully dueting with his sage and salvaging the song. Next came a marching number where, much to the exasperation of security staff, the Spirit called at least one woman onstage. Then came "Voodoo Chile," wherein Randolph evoked Hendrix's hypothetical lost summer learning slide in the Deep South. Appropriate also, since it was performed within distance of the statue of Randolph's idol, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Like a young Sonny Rollins, the string specialist added other melodies, including those from Black Sabbath. An interesting choice given Randolph's upbringing in the House of God Church, where his father was a deacon and his mother a minister. This led directly into an Everglades gator romp "I Came to Stomp My Feet," followed by a set closing, double-time meltdown. Those who missed out shouldn't worry too much, though. It won't be the last time you hear about Robert Randolph's Family Band.