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Robert Randolph & the Family Band 

With Howl. Saturday, February 18, at House of Blues.

House of Blues is such a perfect setting for Robert Randolph & the Family Band's mix of earthy African American styles -- rollicking electric blues, gritty Sly Stone funk, exultant gospel, and warm Stevie Wonder soul -- that you'd think the music inspired the club chain's aesthetic. Except that just like the outsider artists whose work crams the club's walls, Randolph and his Family Band developed in complete obscurity until being "discovered" as fully formed folk masters. By the spring of 2000, the singer/songwriter/steel-guitar player and his band had in a few short years gone from performing at Pentecostal church services in Randolph's native New Jersey to playing with Medeski Martin & Wood. And as their 2003 studio debut on Warner Brothers proved, their eyes were watching God even as their ecstatic pyrotechnic soul was lighting the fire of jam-band audiences everywhere.

This intimate tour serves as a testing ground for Randolph's long-overdue follow-up. Those who prefer funk that explores the full meaning of the word -- that is, funk that revels in sex and suffering, as well as celebrating salvation -- will probably want to wait for the return of OutKast or D'Angelo. But anyone whose soul has been stirred by House of Blues' gospel brunch won't want to miss Randolph.

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