The pedal steel guitar is unquestionably one of the most beautiful instruments found in modern music.
This beloved sound has become popular within gospel and blues music, whilst also frequently found in country and Americana compositions. The warm and dynamic tones created by the instrument as the slide zips along the fretboard makes it instantly recognisable and easily distinguishable against more traditional electric slide guitars or resonators.
One branch of this particular style of play that has become synonymous with gospel music, in particular, is Sacred Steel.
Having spent his late teens honing his craft in church Robert Randolph is recognised as one of the finest maestros of this traditional style of play. And for his latest release, the US-based virtuoso looks to channel the sound he grew up with whilst simultaneously adding his own unique recipe and flavours.
And what better starting point on this spiritual journey then Baptise Me. With its funky groove, joyous gospel-tinged vocal harmonies and searing slide licks the song is so moreish that you can’t help but play it on repeat.
The foot-stomping rhythm of the second track of the record makes you immediately want to get up on your feet. Making the title Don’t Fight It, the perfect moniker for this ferocious dance-inducing number – and on the strength of this song who could resist?
Randolph slows things down somewhat with the gorgeous soulful number Simple Man. With tracks such as this Robert adopts a less is more approach to his playing. It’s not about speed but rather he delivers what is required by the song.
The dreamy slide tones of Have Mercy are the perfect soundtrack to a beautiful summer’s evening. With what feels like a choir of harmonious backing vocalists giving the song a heartwarming spirited undertone.
Throughout the record, Randolph continues to switch things up. Tracks like Second Hand Man are the perfect example of contemporary blues-rock at it’s best. With its heavy groove, blistering fuzz fuelled licks and catchy hooks the track is one of the standout numbers on the album. Whilst Randolph turns up the funk with Second Hand Man.
Midway through the record, the exuberant Cry Over Me is a further highlight from the album. Oozing with soul, wonderful harmonies, emotive playing and a spellbinding slide solo from Randolph.
When listening to I’m Living Off The Love You Give it almost feels like the listener is opening a time capsule to when Stax Records ruled the airwaves.
The album comes to its conclusion with Strange Train. With its up-tempo rhythm, funky breakdown and infectious melody, it leaves the listener wanting more. There are hooks within this song which could crossover giving it potential mainstream appeal.
The beauty of this record is that Robert Randolph is not chasing current trends, but rather putting his own gifted touch on a traditional sound. By doing so there is a real timeless quality to many of the tracks on this record. There is not one bad song on this album.
As we are currently living in strange times, this uplifting record by Robert Randolph and the Family Band are the perfect sounds to navigate us towards Brighter Days.
Robert Randolph and the Family Band will release their new studio album, Brighter Days, on August 23rd via Provogue/Mascot Label Group.