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Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on May 9th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 10

Robert Randolph & The Family Band brings funky, bluesy pedal steel guitar sound to Presqu'ile Winery

By JOE PAYNE

The pedal steel electric slide guitar is an instrument that immediately brings country music to mind, from its warm low end to its clear high range. But for Robert Randolph, his first first experience with the versatile instrument wasn’t in a honky-tonk, but in church.

Randolph grew up in New Jersey, attending the House of God Church, a black Pentecostal church with a nearly century-long tradition of gospel music that features pedal and lap steel guitar, known as “sacred steel.”


ELECTRIC SLIDE
Robert Randolph & The Family Band will perform a show that features Randolph’s ripping pedal steel electric guitar style, which blends modes of gospel, funk, blues, and rock ’n’ roll.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RED LIGHT MANAGEMENT

“Our church is this church organization that is very similar to the Buena Vista Social Club where it goes back to the early 1900s, when the church couldn’t afford organs,” Randolph told the Sun. “There was a guy named Willie Easton who started this tradition of lap steel in the church, and lap steel had to play the role of the organ. ... He basically started this gospel church tradition that my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents, we all grew up in this church organization.”

The church was strict, Randolph explained, and he went most of his childhood and teenage years without exposure to secular music, but that didn’t affect his musical education. Randolph was steeped in a “fiery, bluesy rock and gospel” style that he learned on the lap steel and pedal steel slide guitars, and was a prodigiously fluent musician at a young age.

In the late 1990s, he finally heard his first rock ’n’ roll, a collection of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s greatest hits. Hearing one of the most famous lead guitarists, and then following up with other greats like Jimi Hendrix, changed the way Randolph saw his instrument.

“I’m really inspired by all of those sort of real lead guitarists,” he said, “because the pedal steel has always been looked at one way as one thing, either in country music or Hawaiian music, as a guy who just sort of adds something to the rest of what’s going on.”

In the early 2000s he formed Robert Randolph & The Family Band, which is set to perform on May 12 for the first in Presqu’ile Winery’s summer concert series. The series features big-name bands in the winery’s outdoor amphitheater, tucked among the rolling hills of Santa Maria Valley’s wine country.

The group’s sound includes funk, blues, rock, twinges of Southern rock, and soul. The band features Randolph front and center, and his cousins play bass, drums, guitar, and keyboards.

“It’s going to be a whole family affair,” he said.

Randolph and the band released a new album last year called Got Soul, which earned favorable reviews by publications and those who rated the album on iTunes and elsewhere online. They’ll perform cuts off the new album and more at the Presqu’ile concert, he said.

A few of the album’s songs include features, like “Love Do What It Do,” which welcomed Darius Rucker to sing lead. Randolph and his bandmates wrote the song, he said, and invited Rucker to join the tune after entertaining the idea of a collaboration for a while.

Catch the show
Presqu’ile Winery kicks off its summer concerts series with Robert Randolph & The Family Band performing live in the outdoor amphitheater on May 12 at 5 p.m. with opener Soul Scratch. Presqu’ile is located at 5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria. More info: (805) 937-8110 or presquilewine.com.

“Love me like you favorite song/Like you love your whiskey strong/Like your daddy loves your momma/And your momma loves your daddy/And granny loves a Sunday morning,” Rucker sings over Randolph’s earthy chords.

The album represents an artist totally comfortable with his sound, which includes all the bluesy rock you could hope for with feel-good hooks and lyrics. There’s a joy to Randolph’s music, definitely influenced by his gospel roots, for all the things that make life good and beautiful.

“Everybody’s sort of angry at each other, all this politics and all that’s going on,” he said. “We just wanted to have these songs that sort of encompass the different messages of what’s been going on in the world and really try to inspire people and make them feel good and dance, and have these subliminal messages that really picks people up.”

The songs are also designed to get people dancing, smiling, and having a good time, Randolph explained. That shouldn’t be too difficult when he comes to the Central Coast as Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

“Whenever you get to go to California, go all over the visit the wineries, it’s always a great musical crowd there,” Randolph said. “Great music fans, people that are into different cultures of music, all different styles of music. So, it’s really a cool thing.”

Managing Editor Joe Payne respects a good slide player. Contact him at jpayne@santamariasun.com.




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