ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND

ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND

Many musicians claim that they “grew up in the church,” but for Robert Randolph that is literally the case. The renowned pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and songwriter led such a cloistered childhood and adolescence that he heard no secular music while growing up. If it wasn’t being played inside of the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey—quite often by Robert and members of his own family, who upheld a long but little known gospel music tradition called sacred steel—Randolph simply didn’t know it existed.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band—whose label debut for Sony Masterworks, Got Soul, will be released on Feb. 17, 2017—is today an inspiration to the likes of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Derek Trucks, all of whom have played with him and studied his technique. It wasn’t until he was out of his teens that Randolph broke away from the confines of his social and musical conditioning and discovered rock, funk, soul, jazz and the jam band scene, soon forging his own sound by fusing elements of those genres.
“It was all church music. It was a movement within our church and that’s all we used to do,” says Randolph of the sacred steel music he played at the time, music whose association with his church stretches back to the 1920s. Once Randolph began to discover other forms of music, he saw how they were all connected, and was eager to find his own place. “All music is related. Gospel is the same as blues,” he says. “The only thing that changes is in hardcore gospel people are singing about God and Jesus and in the blues people are singing about ‘my baby left me’ and whiskey. When we first started out, guys really weren’t allowed to leave the church. I was the one that stepped out and started this thing. My dad would say, ‘Why do you come home smelling like beer and cigarettes?’ ‘Well, we just got done playing some smoky club till 2 a.m.!’ It was all foreign and different.”
By the early 2000s, Randolph had begun applying his dazzling steel guitar technique to secular music, and from that grew the Family Band. The group’s sound was so different than anything else around that they were soon packing New York City clubs. Their first album, 2002’s Live at the Wetlands, was recorded at the now defunct jam band haven, and was followed by four studio albums and another live set, each widening the band’s audience—they’ve long been regulars on the festival circuit—and broadening their stylistic range as well.
“Things happened really fast,” Randolph—named one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone—says now. “When I look back on that time, to be honest, I had no idea what the hell we were doing. We’d get told, ‘You guys are going on tour with Eric Clapton.’ ‘Oh, OK.’ I thought, this guy must not have a clue who I am but the first time I met him we talked for about an hour and played music backstage.”
The Family Band’s improvisational skills quickly made them mega-popular among the jam-band crowd, but for Randolph and his band mates, what they were doing was just an extension of what they’d always done. “The jam band scene has that name but it’s really
a true music art form scene where you can just be who you are,” Randolph says. “We fit in that category in some sense but the jam band scene itself has changed a lot since that time. I’ve grown to like songs and I like to jam within the song.”
On Got Soul—which features guest artists Anthony Hamilton, Darius Rucker, Cory Henry—Robert Randolph and the Family Band walk that line deftly, displaying their virtuosity within the context of a dozen smartly crafted tunes. “I like both playing live and recording,” says Randolph. “The thing about a record is you get a chance to rehearse parts and fine-tune things. But if you look at most great music artists—people like Stevie Wonder—the song is totally different from the show. When you’re in the studio, it’s hard to improvise without an audience. But for us, well, we’ve been playing in front of audiences our whole lives.”

The Delta Saints

Voodoo is rising from the New Music City. Not the Nashville of its country past, but a city awash in fresh talent fed by decades of tradition; dry hearts fueling the furnace of venues that always beg to be stoked. Leading the way are The Delta Saints.

Since 2007, The Delta Saints have brought feet to floors worldwide with songs like “Bird Called Angola”, “Death Letter Jubilee”, and their standout style of Psychedelic Voodoo Rock and Roll. In 2014 they sold out shows in six countries. Toured 50 dates with Blackberry Smoke. Played Summerfest and the Grolsch Blues Festival, among others. Released both Drink it Slow EP and a live album recorded on back-to-back sell-out nights at the acclaimed Exit/In.

Now The Delta Saints are releasing their most ambitious record to date in 2015: Bones. Recorded at Sputnik Sound Studio in Nashville with producer and Third Man Records alum Ed Spear (fresh from contributing to more than 200 recordings for artists like The White Stripes, The Shins, Brooke Waggoner, Kingswood & Tinariwen), Bones is the sound of a new beginning for the band. It’s also their first album with keyboardist Nate Kremer replacing harmonica.

Kremer became a fixture of the line-up after joining the band on a European tour with only two weeks notice. He learned the band’s songs while playing them on-stage in Spain, and soon became a catalyst for the band to expand their sound upward and out of definition, bringing forth psychedelic influences that have long been bubbling beneath the surface. In their own words, “There are still huge drum and bass parts. There are still massive distorted guitar solos. Ben Ringel still screams his ass off. But now there’s a whole other dimension of sounds and feelings.”

That new dimension is present from the first track, “Sometimes I Worry”. With the end of the opening tremolo and trashcan jangle, the Saints lock into an acetylene groove that shows renewed vigor and a refined sound. Ringel’s singing is smooth and surprising as always, capable of crooning through the verses but then thundering at a moment’s notice. Now too is the rest of the band. They’ve purified their tracks. Purged them of everything unnecessary, clearing room for bigger riffs and bolder expressions, their rock and roll roots billowing into a hallucinatory haze.

Ben Azzi and Dylan Fitch make the title track “Bones” ripple and roil like black water, backed by Kremer’s haunting hoodoo organ. “Heavy Hammer” is instantly recognizable for its classic Saints swagger and David Supica’s funk-laced bass lines. But these tracks now stand out alongside ones like the celestial, sparse “Butte La Rose”, which is lobbed into the line-up like a heartfelt hand-grenade. Along with the slithering “Zydeco”, it holds not just some of the most psychedelic moments of the record, but some of the most impactful too.

By the time the last notes fade, Bones is more than an album for The Delta Saints. It is a sign of the band boldly stepping forward from the crowd and refusing to be defined by the past. Rattling their would-be chains against the old cell bars. Singing to whoever will listen that there are far greater things yet to come.

$25.00

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* General Admission * Standing Room Only- If Seating Is Available, It Will Be On A Strictly First Come/First Serve Basis * Additional $5 Cash Surcharge At The Door For Under 21 * Attendees Under 16 Must Be Accompanied By A Ticketed, Adult Guardian *

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