Robert Randolph & The Family Band - We Walk This Road (2010)
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Label: Warner Bros./Dare Records | # 5099908229328 | Time: 00:56:01
Blues, Gospel, Blues-Rock, Rhythm & Blues, Pedal Steel Guitar

Produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett, 'We Walk This Road' continues the Sacred Steel tradition for which Robert Randolph has earned wide praise, including the New York Times, which applauds 'his rip-roaring virtuosity and his gift for making his instrument sing without a word.'

Throughout the recording of 'We Walk This Road,' Randolph and Burnett worked closely together as archivists, discovering songs-decade by decade-from the 20th century American music canon. The songs they uncovered, ranging from blues and rock to field recordings and gospel, serve as the inspiration for the 11 songs on 'We Walk This Road.' Recorded at the Village Recorders and Electro Magnetic Studio, the album includes 'If I Had My Way' (featuring Ben Harper), 'Salvation' (featuring Leon Russell), and reinterpretations of Prince's 'Walk Don't Walk,' Bob Dylan's 'Shot Of Love,' (featuring Jim Keltner, who played drums on the original version) and John Lennon's 'I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama' (featuring Doyle Bramhall II).

Of the album, Randolph says 'T Bone and I drew a lot from the past while we were making this record, but I think it really is a record for these times. I think the fact that I, as a young guy who likes hip-hop and gospel, am reaching back into this rich history of American roots music will appeal to people who are fifteen, and people who are seventy-five years old. T Bone opened my eyes to great archival music. He's a link between the past and the present.'

Even though Robert Randolph & the Family Band had already become famous for blending gospel, blues, and contemporary styles on their first two albums, they decided to bring that same sort of syncretism to their source material for the third, We Walk This Road. Toward that end, they brought in producer T-Bone Burnett, a man who knows a thing or two about reconciling American roots music with the modern world. The results succeed in extending the group's scope in a way that matches its sound. Randolph, who was only allowed to listen to Christian music growing up, has stated that Burnett's deep knowledge of blues history opened up new worlds for him, and the steel guitar star has reckoned that he ended up spending thousands of dollars "catching up" and buying music digitally. Ultimately, though, the process isn't important - what matters is what Burnett and the band achieved together, and We Walk This Road is a consistently surprising tour de force that moves easily through rock, blues, R&B, gospel, and more, sometimes bringing them all together at the same time. "If I Had My Way," for example, modernizes Blind Willie Johnson's gospel-blues classic with touches of rock, electric blues, and hip-hop, as Randolph trades licks with guest Ben Harper. Musical roots of a comparatively more recent vintage are tapped as well, like on the swampy, funked-up version of John Lennon's "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama," which features some guest guitar from Doyle Bramhall II, and a groove-conscious, pop-savvy take on Prince's "Walk Don't Walk." Naturally, the most striking sonic thread connecting these winding paths together is the visceral but otherworldly "sacred steel" work of Randolph himself, which remains a wonder to behold no matter the context.

Hooking up with the jam-band scene may have been the worst thing Robert Randolph could have done. Though amazing live, he has never recorded a great album - until now. Randolph puts overcooked funk on the back burner and offers up his specialty: pure gospel spiced with steel guitar. Producer T Bone Burnett works subtly, using old samples of standards like "Traveling Shoes" as segues into Randolph's songs, and Randolph finds the sweet, soulful spot covering tunes by three rock legends: Bob Dylan ("Shot of Love"), Prince ("Walk Don't Walk") and John Lennon ("I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama").


01. Segue 1 (0:25)
02. Traveling Shoes (3:49)
03. Segue 2 (0:10)
04. Back To The Wall (3:31)
05. Shot Of Love (5:36)
06. I Still Belong To Jesus (6:02)
07. Segue 3 (0:27)
08. If I Had My Way (5:35)
09. Segue 4 (0:22)
10. Don't Change (4:47)
11. I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama (5:50)
12. Walk Don't Walk (4:06)
13. Segue 5 Them Bones (0:19)
14. Dry Bones (3:42)
15. Segue 6 (0:17)
16. I'm Not Listening (5:03)
17. Salvation (5:59)

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