Robert Randolph and the Family Band

December 30


Robert Randolph and the Family Band perform December 30 at Trees.
I'm not one to bow my head at the altar of false guitar-god idols. Actually, I'm not one to bow my head at the altar of true guitar-god idols. Hot-shit solos and technical know-how don't do much for me unless they're attached to a song or an emotion or a goofy guy with a funny hat and a stupid mustache. (Yes, it's true: I once dug Primus.) New Jersey-based pedal-steel virtuoso Robert Randolph is, according to many people who'd know better than I, a true guitar god, a title he shows off robustly on Unclassified, he and his Family Band's major-label studio debut. But though the disc ventures a little often into good-time jam-all-night territory for my radio-weaned taste, Randolph drives his signature instrumental voice--a lusciously rounded tone that sounds way too sexed-up for his well-documented background playing at the House of God Church outside Newark--toward such an unfiltered jubilation that his technique sometimes transcends itself; when the whole fam joins in on "I Need More Love"'s hard-groove chorus, you'll gladly give it to 'em. There's even a song or two--the best of which is the acoustic ballad "Smile"--that owes a debt to Stevie Wonder's creamy early-'70s work. Demand Randolph play it at Trees and hear him reach his higher ground.
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