Funkin’ gospel steel Sabbath

By on August 22, 2012

Robert Randolph will deliver precise playing with a funk-rock vibe. – courtesy Robert Randolph & the family band

Jackson Hole, Wyo.-The most rock-oriented rippers of all pedal-steel players, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, will close a successful inaugural run of concerts for JacksonHoleLive during what will now be “sacred steel Sunday.”

Many Jacksonites first saw the Randolph experience at the Jackson Hole Music Festival in 2008. At the time, Randolph’s touring band consisted of two additional pedal steel players backed by electric guitar, bass, organ and drums. From bootlegs as recent as Aug. 12, however, it appears that the Family Band has been trimmed to a quartet.
Randolph grew up in the House of God where pedal steel was an intricate part of the church’s tradition. Inspired by gospel roots, ’70s funk, a heavy dose of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton technique, and the spirit of high-energy, lengthy improvisation, Randolph has earned a reputation as one of the finest instrumentalists on Earth (he was the only pedal-steel player on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarists list). His playing – like Jimi Hendrix’s expression of voodoo magic and atypical sounds – is certainly out-of-the-box and timeless.
In concert, Randolph is all about the energy. Jams are fully explored, and on occasion, even audience members are brought on stage to participate.
His latest studio effort, We Walk This Road [2010], was recorded over the course of two years with producer T-Bone Burnett. The album pays tribute to African-American music over the past 100 years, specifically rooted in the folk-blues of the 1920s and 30s, but also showcases the smoothness of Randolph’s instrumental style as well as additional lyrics. Randolph’s second live album, Live in Concert, was released in 2011.
“Working with T-Bone and just sitting down and talking with him … when you have the opportunity to make music with and take in all the knowledge this guy has who understands the roots of American history, it was different from making my other albums,” Randolph told Artist Direct. “He understands how it all came from the old gospel recordings and the old field recordings from back in the day. This all came from the church and working with a producer like T-Bone, we could tie it all in and make a record that speaks to the people that understand who Robert Randolph is.”
Randolph has been nominated for four Grammy Awards – for his recording of the Stevie Wonder classic “Higher Ground” with gospel legends The Clark Sisters, his debut album Unclassified was nominated for Best Rock Gospel Album, while the track “Squeeze” was nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Each of the local openers – Benyaro and Elk Attack – has new albums to celebrate this summer. Folk/soul duo Benyaro released its third studio album, The Cover EP, featuring acoustic arrangements of songs from Sam Cooke and Etta James among others, and has been touring the West for much of the summer.
Indie/folk/rock quintet Elk Attack recently completed a fan-funded Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $5,500 towards the production of its debut studio effort, Second Born. The album will be released in the coming weeks followed by a tour that will take the band to the Southeast. Elk Attack consists of songwriters Bo Elledge (guitar/vocals, Dustin Nichols-Schmolze (guitar/vocals), Gabrielle Jackson Kouchacji (violin/vocals), John Wayne Harris Jr. (drums), and Adam Wooley (bass).
JacksonHoleLive presents Robert Randolph and the Family Band with special guests Benyaro and Elk Attack, 3 p.m., Sunday at Snow King Ball Field. Free, all-ages.
courtesy Robert Randolph & the family band
Robert Randolph will deliver precise playing with a funk-rock vibe.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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