<em>By Jedd Ferris</em>
He’s a new generation guitar god and he’s out to prove that pure soul has a place in rock ‘n’ roll. Robert Randolph grew up in New Jersey playing in the House of God Church, honing his chops as part of a long musical tradition known as the Sacred Steel. But in his youth he also couldn’t ignore the power of Led Zeppelin. Eventually he moved his pedal steel from the house of the holy to the devil’s den, as he began gigging in underground New York clubs.
After a few years on grassroots club circuit, he’s now become one of the most respected guitarists in the game, touting a major label deal, playing for large crowds, and jamming with Eric Clapton.
This month Randolph released his second album, “Colorblind,” for Warner Bros. Recorded in Los Angeles, Nashville, and at Dave Matthew’s studio just outside of Charlottesville-the album in being true to its title includes a wide palate of musical variety-equally exploring jam rock (“Deliver Me”), horn-driven funk (“Diane”), and a sly mix of R&B and up-tempo hill country blues (“Angels”).
The opening “Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That” mixes big electric riffs with the loud harmonies and spirit-filled clapping of an aggressive gospel congregation. In large part Randolph gets by with a little help from his friends, as Clapton joins the fun for a blazing cover of the Doobie Brothers’ “Jesus is Just Alright” and Matthews adds vocals to “Love is the Only Way.”
Catch Robert Randolph and the Family Band at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga., on October 26.