December 6, 2002

TEST SPIN: Robert Randolph & The Family Band

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There’s something about family and tradition in the South: the two quintessential characteristics which served as both the downfall and triumph of Southern life. Tragically aiding the perpetuation of oppressive racism and classism, while also contributing to the birth of a distinct culture, family and tradition have rendered the South rich in musical legacy. The Allman Brothers Band provides an adept example of how these Southern staples combine in musical culture as response to a dark history of prejudice and an assertion of regional identity. In their latest release, Robert Randolph and The Family Band rely upon family and tradition to inspire their bluesy, soulful jams, in a demonstration of what the South is about at a now defunct but legendary venue of the North — the Wetlands Preserve of New York City.

Robert Randolph, leading the way on his blistering steel guitar, along with his two cousins Danyel Morgan (bass) and Marcus Randolph (drums), and rounded out by John Ginty (organ), all deliver an improvisation-packed, bluesy rock set for one of the last performances at The Wetlands, a venue famous for its environmental political focus and its organic jam acts. On this live album, the pedal steel guitar, in its wavering voice, wails the southern blues tradition over the irresistibly funky backbone, laid down by the Family Band. From the playful, joyous strut of “The March,” to the resurgent, pain-ridden bout of blues on “Pressing My Way,” Robert Randolph and The Family Band use a broad palette of colors to inflect their bluesy style with intriguing variation, which makes for an excellent live recording.

Archived article by Andrew Gilman