by Kelley Lin
It’s Sunday morning, and (maybe) you’re at church. The service is righteous but slow. Now imagine New Jersey’s pedal steel guitar legend, Robert Randolph, showing up to steal the gospel choir’s spotlight. If you’re lucky, he performs his famous covers of “Purple Haze.” Otherwise, you can now catch up with Randolph and his Family Band’s newest release, Got Soul.
Randolph himself has made appearances in the works of stars like Ringo Starr, Ozzy Osbourne, Buddy Guy, Santana, Dave Matthews Band, Elton John, and more. Having been mentioned on several Rolling Stone “Greatest Guitarists of All-Time” lists, Randolph shares the album’s funk with other featured epics: Anthony Hamilton, Cory Henry, and Darius Rucker. Since the band’s 2013 release, Lickety Split, they have not once stepped out of the jam-band crowd.
This new album is a frank revival of gospel funk, as well as the genre of jamdom, which originated in the Grateful Dead cult of the 60s. Inspired, of course, by the church, but also by the recent turmoil of the American political climate, Got Soul is a reenergizing of blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and the good ol’ celebration. It is, as Randolph calls it, a kind of “rock ‘n’ roll church.”
Although tracks like “Lovesick” and “Shake It” show off the band’s soulful riffs, the album should be further revered for its message of embracing compassion and positive transformation. “She Got Soul” is an anthem for mothers and women everywhere. In the face of racial tension in today’s America, “Love Do What It Do” and “Be the Change” preach to listeners how easy it still is to dance—how America’s still Got Soul.
You can see Robert Randolph & The Family Band touring the US through April, in addition to upcoming festival appearances. The band has several New York show dates in both March and April.