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Randolph’s music remains Unclassified

Brian Foy | Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Robert Randolph & The Family Band hit the music scene nearly three years ago and it has been nonstop ever since. Randolph began his musical career as a teenager playing the steel pedal guitar in his House of God church in Orange, New Jersey. After honing his craft, he was asked to record an all-instrumental album with the famed blues band the North Mississippi All-Stars. Shortly thereafter, Randolph turned his focus to his own music and recruited his cousins Danyel Morgan and Marcus Randolph, and completed the band with John Ginty. A deluge of gigs followed and in little time record labels were lining up to sign Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

In 2002, Robert Randolph & The Family Band released a live album entitled Live at the Wetlands. It was then decided that a studio release would follow and famed producer Jim Scott would be selected to try to bring the live and energetic sound of Robert Randolph & The Family Band to the studio. Scott, who has worked with acts from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, let the band play and helped to get the steel pedal to sound like it is. In August of 2003, Robert Randolph & The Family Band released their major label studio debut UNCLASSIFIED.

As soon as you begin to listen to UNCLASSIFIED you realize this is not your typical album and Robert Randolph & The Family Band is anything but your typical band. UNCLASSIFIED is a unique blend of not only different genres of music, but also the harmonizing of different instruments. The first track, “Going In The Right Direction,” showcases Randolph’s Gospel roots and the band’s ability to back the force that is Randolph. The song allows the other members of the band to be heard, but once the song commences the listener most likely will remember the solos of Randolph’s steel pedal guitar. The first single, “I Need More Love,” is a funky jam that begins with an up tempo bass riff and drums. The interplay between Randolph’s guitar and Danyel’s vocals is very reminiscent of the early work of Stevie Wonder and is the reason this foot-tapping track is catchy. The album’s final track, “Run For Your Life,” is one of four instrumental songs found on UNCLASSIFIED. This is where the talent and potential of Robert Randolph & The Family Band is most apparent. Every member of the band has their time to shine with their instrument coming to the forefront of the wave of sound. The timing and structure of “Run For Your Life” is well beyond that of most freshman studio efforts.

Many music acts that rely on a unique sound or instrument lose their appeal after the first listen because the magic begins to wear off, but UNCLASSIFIED by Robert Randolph & The Family Band may be the exact opposite. After listening to the tracks a few times, the solos and harmonizing of the steel pedal guitar become more familiar, yet they keep their edgy appeal. The anticipation for the craftsmanship that Randolph showcases grows stronger with every listen and the familiarity breeds a very charming quality more than anything else. The first studio release from Robert Randolph & The Family Band is not perfect by any means, but it clearly shows why Randolph was named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time. It is clear from this effort that he is a different animal who is ready to bring his unique music style to the masses, and he and the rest of the band will be around for a long time to come.

Contact Brian Foy at bfoy@nd.edu