Robert Randolph – Live at Wetlands (Dare, 2002)
Steel guitar player Robert Randolph first came to the attention of the blues and jam band community by playing sacred and gospel music. On this live album, Randolph and his regular backing “Family Band” rips through a series of instrumental and a few vocal numbers.
“Ted’s Jam” and “The March” open the disc and set the tone. Randolph’s stinging pedal steel guitar slides over a backing of electric bass, organ and percussion. The band stretches out quite a bit melding gospel, blues and jam band rock and roll. The tempo shifts on “Pressing My Way” as Randolph takes to the microphone for the lead vocal shared with gospel-tinged singer and bassist Daniel Morgan. During this twelve-minute jam, the band shifts tempos several times and the enthusiastic crowd is very responsive.
The second half of the disc is a carbon of the first – up-tempo, near over the top improv based on gospel and blues motifs. It’s fun to listen too and must have been a blast to see in person, but it will be interesting to see what Randolph and the band can do in the studio. Will they be able to mix tempos to keep the music fresh or will they turn out to be one of the many jam bands that are interesting on stage, but are unable to bring that energy into the studio.
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