released June 22nd, 2010
from the album - Travelin' Shoes
from all music
A virtuoso on the pedal steel guitar, Robert Randolph set the music world on fire in 2000 when he began playing his first club dates in New York City. Randolph started playing the instrument as a church-going teenager in Orange, NJ, a small city just outside of Newark. He regularly attended the House of God Church, an African-American Pentecostal denomination that had been implementing steel guitars (or "Sacred Steel") in services since the '30s, with the pedal steel in particular being introduced during the '70s. Randolph learned to play by watching other steel players during church services; years later, he updated that sacred basis with a secular mix of funk and soul, giving a new multicultural facelift to an instrument that had often been associated with country music.
In early 2000, Jim Markel heard Randolph play at the Sacred Steel Convention in Florida and subsequently introduced him to his friend, Gary Waldman. Together, Waldman and Markel began to manage Randolph's career, which took flight after Matt Hickey, a talent buyer at Manhattan's Bowery Ballroom, signed Randolph on as the opening act for the North Mississippi Allstars. Within a month, Randolph had graduated to the Beacon Theater, where he played alongside Medeski, Martin & Wood. Keyboardist John Medeski enjoyed Randolph's playing so much that he asked him to record an instrumental gospel/blues album with the band. The resulting record, The Word, was released in August 2001 to great critical and popular acclaim.
Randolph's own group, the Family Band, includes cousins Danyell Morgan and Marcus Randolph (bass and drums, respectively) and John Ginty (Hammond B-3 organ). The band's career began with opening gigs for a variety of blues, jazz-funk, and jam bands such as the Derek Trucks Band, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, and Soulive; headlining gigs became the norm within a few months' time. Robert Randolph & the Family Band released Live at the Wetlands in fall 2001, capturing the band's live performance at the legendary Wetlands venue shortly before it closed. The group's studio debut, Unclassified, followed in 2003 and introduced Randolph to an even wider audience. One new fan was veteran guitarist Eric Clapton, who brought the band out on tour and appeared on Robert Randolph's third release, Colorblind, in 2006. In 2010, Randolph teamed-up with producer T-Bone Burnett and released the album We Walk This Road which featured guest appearances from Ben Harper, Leon Russell and Doyle Bramhall II.
Even though Robert Randolph & the Family Band had already become famous for blending gospel, blues, and contemporary styles on their first two albums, they decided to bring that same sort of syncretism to their source material for the third, We Walk This Road. Toward that end, they brought in producer T-Bone Burnett, a man who knows a thing or two about reconciling American roots music with the modern world. The results succeed in extending the group's scope in a way that matches its sound. Randolph, who was only allowed to listen to Christian music growing up, has stated that Burnett's deep knowledge of blues history opened up new worlds for him, and the steel guitar star has reckoned that he ended up spending thousands of dollars "catching up" and buying music from iTunes. Ultimately, though, the process isn't important -- what matters is what Burnett and the band achieved together, and We Walk This Road is a consistently surprising tour de force that moves easily through rock, blues, R&B, gospel, and more, sometimes bringing them all together at the same time. "If I Had My Way," for example, modernizes Blind Willie Johnson's gospel-blues classic with touches of rock, electric blues, and hip-hop, as Randolph trades licks with guest Ben Harper. Musical roots of a comparatively more recent vintage are tapped as well, like on the swampy, funked-up version of John Lennon's "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama," which features some guest guitar from Doyle Bramhall II, and a groove-conscious, pop-savvy take on Prince's "Walk Don't Walk." Naturally, the most striking sonic thread connecting these winding paths together is the visceral but otherworldly "sacred steel" work of Randolph himself, which remains a wonder to behold no matter the context.
1 Segue 1: "Traveling Shoes" Interlude Traditional :25
2 Traveling Shoes Burnett, Randolph, Tonio K. 3:48
3 Segue 2: "Traveling Shoes" Interlude Traditional :09
4 Back to the Wall Gray 3:30
5 Shot of Love Dylan 5:36
6 I Still Belong to Jesus Case 6:01
7 Segue 3: "If I Had My Way I'd Tear This Building Down" Interlude Johnson :27
8 If I Had My Way Burnett, Johnson, Randolph ... 5:35
9 Segue 4: "If I Had My Way I'd Tear This Building Down" Interlude Johnson :21
10 Don't Change Gray, Hamlin 4:47
11 I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama Lennon 5:49
12 Walk Don't Walk Prince 4:06
13 Segue 5: "Them Bones" Interlude Traditional :19
14 Dry Bones Burnett, Case, Randolph ... 3:42
15 Segue 6: "Them Bones" Interlude Traditional :16
16 I'm Not Listening Burnett, Case, Randolph ... 5:03
17 Salvation Hogarth, McEwan, Train 5:59