September 18, 2003

Test Spin: Robert Randolph

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Robert Randolph is quite unique. In an age where the dominant African-American musical genre is hip hop, Randolph grew up aspiring not to be a rapper, but instead a great pedal steel guitar player. His first studio album, Unclassified, proves that he is well on his way.

Randolph, backed by his Family Band, displays an impressive blend of style and technical skill that becomes Unclassified’s defining quality. Oftentimes throughout the album Randolph’s guitar seamlessly fills in where vocals would normally reside. But almost every song contains a solo that further emphasizes just how good Randolph is. “I Need More Love,” which has recently been receiving airplay on VH1, is a perfect example of the band’s sound, a combination of blues, funk and soul. The Family Band supplies a groove built upon drums, bass, and organs, while Randolph does the rest. Most of the songs are up-tempo and very danceable, but are played in such a fashion that Unclassified is also somewhat of a relaxed listen; one can easily opt to lie back and soak everything in if they so desire. On Unclassified, Randolph and his band distinguish themselves as extremely talented and promising musicians who are already among the best in the business.

Archived article by Ross McGowan