Out Today: Robert Randolph & the Family Band


Robert Randolph & the Family Band
We Walk This Road
(Warner Bros.)

Over the past decade, Robert Randolph has gone from playing pedal steel in church to being crowned one of the generation’s greatest guitarists. The acclaim is warranted: Randolph does things with the pedal steel that recall the lightning Jimi Hendrix produced with his axe. But Randolph’s relatively mannered studio recordings don’t begin to translate the heat generated from his incendiary live shows. His third album, We Walk This Road, won’t change that perception — Randolph and producer T Bone Burnett are more intent on crafting atmosphere than addressing Randolph’s studio passion. As usual, Randolph blends hymns of praise with contemporary songs, but with Burnett on board, there’s a visceral and textural intensity to the music this time around. Their take on Bob Dylan’s “Shot of Love” is transcendent, turning the loping folk-blues into a thunderous electric prayer, complete with tribal drumming. Whether playing authentic archival songs of worship (“Travelin’ Shoes”), disparate modern tracks (Prince’s “Walk Don’t Walk”), or glorious originals, Randolph fashions a swirling sonic aura that pays tribute to the past while trumpeting the future. —Brian Baker