With Robert Randolph, don't worry about style, it's all good
Avalon, Boston, Dec. 4, 2004
By Jeffrey B. Remz
BOSTON - Robert Randolph & The Family Band are not the kind of group that the record store folks could easily assign to a bin.
The New Jersey Randolph rocks, but when he's doing that, the likable, lively, good looking singer and pedal steel player also ventures into the funk, soulful turf and he also infuses his music with gospel sounds.
But no matter because Randolph yet again demonstrated he is one fine performer during his two-hour show before the faithful.
Randolph started off in a rocking mode, perhaps a bit too much so. There wasn't quite enough finesse to the music, but that was perhaps the only slight negative during his show.
The typical song for Randolph was one where they would find the groove and go off from there jamming for awhile, but always returning to the starting off point for the music. The result was not endless meandering, but a few twists and turns along the way, always knowing where it would be heading back, such as the hard-edged but soulful "Shake Your Thing."
Randolph plays pedal steel as if he were playing lead guitar. He fills the air quite capably with his sharp playing, bringing the music to a higher level. Te guy does things on pedal steel that you just don't hear from that instrument.
His very adept band, including cousins Danyel Morgan on bass and Marcus Randolph on drums also did more than their share in making the music come alive. Morgan also took turns several times on vocals, and his soulful, high-pitched voice, offered a contrast to Randolph.
On several songs, band members easily switched instruments, showing their adroitness at playing whatever was handed to them.
The closing song, the unrecorded "Jailbird" (at least that's the working title), saw Randolph play electric guitar, while the organ player switched to fiddle.
"This is one of the jams we play on the tour bus," Randolph said. "We don't know how it's going to end, but we have a good time."
The song stretched on for awhile, as many of Randolph's songs did. He also separately brought up two ace guitarists from the crowd, Jeremy and Darren, both students at the nearby Berklee School of Music. And these guys came to play as well.
With Randolph, it doesn't really mater how hard or easy he is categorize - what matters most is that the guy got musical chops no matter the style.
New Yorker-based Kaki King opened by playing solo acoustic guitar in an instrumental set. King possesses an interesting style, with her right hand holding down the guitar strings while her left hand does the work on the neck part of the guitar.
King proved far more entertaining when she played louder and faster. While pleasant sounding throughout, King's sound is probably more applicable to a coffeehouse crowd sipping hot cider than a Robert Randolph show.