By j. poet | Published April 2017
Pedal steel guitar player Robert Randolph grew up playing Sacred Steel, an African-American style of music that came out of the Pentecostal church in the 1930s. Sacred Steel makes use of slurred notes, piano-like chords and phrasing that suggests the vocals of gospel singers, sounding far away from the familiar tones of country music.
Randolph never listened to secular music until his early 20s, when he played with John Medeski and the Mississippi Allstars in The Word, an all-instrumental gospel jam band. After that, Randolph put together The Family Band and introduced the sounds of Sacred Steel to the secular world.
The sounds Randolph gets out of his instrument are astonishing—chiming chord clusters, barks and growls, subterranean bass notes and shrieking, heavy metal-style sustained leads. The Family Band is just as impressive, especially electric guitarist Johnny Gale, who often joins Randolph for extended harmonic excursions.
“Love Do What It Do,” with a vocal by guest Darius Rucker (Hootie & the Blowfish), and “Find A Way” combine the most uplifting aspects of church music with a sound that owes more than a little to Sly and the Family Stone. Randolph introduces the band’s cover of Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You,” with a solo that demonstrates the subtle vocal nuances he can produce on the pedal steel.
Got Soul: Got Soul; She Got Soul; Love Do What It Do; Shake It; I Thank You; Be The Change; Heaven’s Calling; Find A Way; I Want It; Travelin’ Cheeba Man; Lovesick; Gonna Be Alright. (44:59)
Personnel: Robert Randolph, pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, vocals; Johnny Gale, electric guitar; Eric Gales, electric guitar; Raymond Angry, Hammond B-3, Wurlitzer electric piano; Shendrick Mitchell, Joey Williams, vocals, Hammond B-3, Wurlitzer electric piano; Derrick Hodge, bass; Marcus Randolph, drums; Bashiri Johnson, percussion; Jeff Coffin, tenor saxophone, baritone saxo- phone; RaShawn Ross, trumpet; Cory Henry, Hammond B-3, vocals; Armand Hutton, vocal; Anthony Hamilton, vocals; Darius Rucker, vocals; Lenesha Randolph, Candice Anderson, Stevie Ladson, Johnny Gale, vocals, background vocals.