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Robert Randolph: "I always go back to how something sounds"

By Robert Baird |

After emerging from the sacred pedal steel tradition in the African-American Pentecostal church, Robert Randolph has expanded the sonic possibilities of his instrument.

Under Randolph's fingers, the pedal steel roars as the star of his fiery live shows, exploding the common perception that its best use was adding atmosphere behind country music weepers. After eight albums Randolph has settled into a forceful soul-gospel-blues-groove which he continues to enrich and explore with each new record. In this collaboration, recorded by skilled Nashville producer Dave Cobb (who also played guitar and co-wrote five of the album's tunes), Randolph mixes things up with a cover of the Pops Staples' "Simple Man," and on the funky, Meters-like "Second Hand Man." "Cut Em Loose" is a powerful hard rock number led by the kind of buzzsaw tone that won the jam band audience over to his cause years ago. The musical intensity increases on "Living Off the Love You Give," with Randolph letting loose on fierce, razor-like lead lines. Brighter Days closes with "Strange Train," another driving, jumpy, R&B-drenched dance tune where Randolph shows again why he is the pedal steel guitar's leading virtuoso.


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