Robert Randolph and The Family Band
February 24, 2007
BY JASON SONGE
When Robert Randolph and The Family Band opened up for the Dave Matthews Band from 2002-2006, they were accepted into the jam band family. I hesitate to even group Matthews with the jam band scene because I've always thought his music was a bit better than the accepted progenitors of that genre, but the fact remains that the jammies follow his lead.
So, it was of little surprise that the majority of the crowd at Tipitina's Saturday night was made up of baseball cap and collar-wearing white guys. A friend made the observation the other day that the potheads and hippies have turned into the frat boys. I'm not sure if that's true, but let's suppose it is. How could it have happened? Did the frats start toking up a bit more, or did the hippies get money, religion, and metrosexualized?
Anyway, let's get back to the music. Despite what kind of crowd they draw, Randolph and The Family Band are super talented. Every person in the band is a freak on their instrument, so it's no surprise they've done so well in the short amount of time they've been together and made so many quick friends(Clapton, North Mississippi All-Stars, Medeski). Besides Randolph, the band consists of drummer Marcus Randolph, bassist Danyel Morgan and organist Jason Crosby.
Randolph and The Band mixed funk, soul, and gospel together seemlessly. Earth, Wind, and Fire and Sly and The Family Stone were obvious influences. "Jesus is Just Alright" was probably the closest the crowd was gonna get to a black church.
Randolph grew up playing his pedal steel guitar at his church in New Jersey, a African-American musical tradition known as Sacred Steel. The Band's rhythm section was so tight that Randolph could solo forever and no one would blink and eye. It's hard to describe, but have you heard a band that's played so many shows together they sound like an inpenetrable wall? That's the Family Band.
Randolph, named by Rolling Stone as #97 on their list of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, didn't mind showing off his virtuosity on the steel or the lead guitar. He loved to rock that shit out and bend those notes. It was so much fun to hear the pedal steel played with such fervor. He was possessed at points.
The best part of the concert was when while playing "Shake Your Hips," Randolph invited girls onstage to dance. Randolph did a pretty great Slim Harpo impersonation. He that boogie blues down.
The concert was good up until the one hour mark. That's when the band started phoning it in with covers and lengthy jams. I know some people like that, but I thought it was boring.