Robert Randolph & the Family Band – Got Soul (2017)

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Nearly four years after the “raw, rambunctious and unrelentingly fun” Lickety Split, the pedal steel guitar king Robert Randolph follows up with Got Soul, now out from Sony Music Masterworks. Though soul has always been a part of the roots rock mix for Randolph, he’s amped up the soul factor this time. But if you peel it back to what this album is really about, it’s a return of sorts to his spiritual roots. “When you’re digging deep in your soul, you can always find originality,” he asserts. “People got soul everywhere.”

Randolph sees himself as a “rock and roll preacher” on this album, and man, does he practice what he preaches. He preaches with both his voice and a frisky pedal steel on “Got Soul” and when he sings “You got soul, every night and day/Rock ‘n’ roll, till the break of day” he could well be singing about himself and his Family Band. Staying on point and upshifting the tempo into the sweaty R&B gear, Anthony Hamilton handles lead vox for “She Got Soul.” When Randolph preaches, he does so in a non-preachy way, if that makes sense: there’s a positive call for action on the midtempo shuffle “Be The Change” and if “Find A Way” and “Gonna Be Alright” aren’t reassuring in words, they certainly are in music.

The Family Band turns Isaac Hayes’ gritty soul-blues “I Thank You” into a rousing, rockin’ Sunday morning revival with a 21st century twist (“you didn’t have to text me but you did…”), featuring Randolph swapping verses with Snarky Puppy’s organist Cory Henry. Initiated by a pedal steel intro that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, it’s livelier than either Sam & Dave’s or ZZ Top’s renditions. “Shake It” is a rolling funk tune replete with horns adding a punch, and the instrumental “Travelin’ Cheeba Man” is a rousing Southern rock jam, Allman Brothers style.

Darius Rucker has probably gotten his share of shit for the wicked backlash that befell that 90’s one-hit-album band Hootie and the Blowfish that he fronted but his easy flowing baritone voice is undeniably engaging, a fine fit for the irresistibly swampy “Love Do What It Do” (video above).

Never has anyone made spunky roots rock go down so easy like Robert Randolph and his Family Band. All that’s needed is a heapin’ helping of soul and, of course, maximal pedal steel guitar. There’s plenty of both on Got Soul.

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