Robert Randolph and the Family Band spreads its musical joy
Grammy Award-winning steel-pedal guitarist Robert Randolph plays music because it’s the only way he knows how to make people happy.
“I like to bring joy to people,” said the Family Band leader during a Park Record interview from his home in New Jersey. “Growing up in church, I was taught to play music until you got happy, and that hasn’t changed. Even in the band when someone is mad at someone or mad at something that happened, once we get on stage, it all goes away, because, the connection and joy all start to happen naturally.”
Robert Randolph and the Family Band will bring some of its joyful noise to Park City during a show at 10 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 28, at O.P. Rockwell, 268 Main St.
The guitarist said he is ready for the show.
“We look forward to coming to Park City and having a great time,” he said. “It’s always fun for us when we play there.”
The concert will feature songs from the band’s career, and select cuts from its new Grammy Award-nominated album “Got Soul.”
“We pretty much had an idea of bringing in a gospel feel and mixing that up with elements of rock and blues,” Randolph said about the record. “We wanted the music to hit the soul, to talk to the soul, with some great messages and great lyrics.”
Randolph upped the musical ante and called some of his friends to help.
The lineup included rock and country singer Darius Rucker, keyboardist Cory Henry and soul singer Anthony Hamilton.
“I just wanted to be with those guys and hash out some great soul rock music, and give people a sense of how my guitar fits in with the different musical elements of what we heard in church when I was a kid,” he said. “It was a blessing to be part of all that.”
Randolph is humbled by the Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy nomination for “Got Soul.” The nod is the guitarist’s fifth nomination of his career.
“This means a lot because the Recording Academy is an eclectic group to be a part of,” Randolph said. “It’s made of musicians, producers, former rock stars and pop stars, engineers and record-label executives.”
The guitarist said he is also honored that his music is recognized by his peers.
“So when you get nominated, the votes come from all of these die-hard music listeners and makers. Music is their life,” he said. “This is what’s its about for me. It feels good to be recognized by these people, especially because I’m someone who cares about the music I want to make.”
Randolph’s instrument has always been the steel pedal guitar.
“Whenever I sit down with the guitar I learn new things, because the pedal steel is an instrument that hasn’t been tapped to its fullest potential,” he said. “I mean the lap steel was known as a Hawaiian instrument, and the pedal steel became mainly a country instrument.”
Randolph said the pedal steel’s versatility boils down to its tuning.
“You can tune it anyway you want and play it anyway you want,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what tune you use because the combination of the pedals allow you to do whatever you want in terms of voicing and chords.”
The guitarist enjoys exploring the different ways to not only tune the steel pedal, but also how to play it.
“The other day I was listening to an interview with Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and he talked about how [Jimi] Hendrix came onto the scene,” Randolph said. “All the things he did with his guitar blew people away. He plugged it in loud. He used a lot of feedback and really explored the guitar. And that was part of what made rock ‘n’ roll what it is today.
“So when people will tell me things like ‘That’s not how you play the pedal steel,’ I always say, ‘I’m doing what I want to do,’ because I’m playing what I want to hear,” he said. “That’s the cool part for me. I like to explore and discover new things.”
Sometimes discovering new things means reaching back to older songs.
“My love of music has evolved and gotten deeper throughout the years,” he said. “I’ve been finding the older songs of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. I also like listening to the different versions of classic blues songs by Led Zeppelin, The [Rolling] Stones and appreciating all of that.”
Randolph said he’s at a comfortable place in his career, even though he continues to progress as a musician.
“When you’re younger, you tour a lot and get pulled in so many different ways, so it’s been cool, as I have grown older, to rediscover my place as a guy who brings a sense of enjoyment to people with this bluesy, rock gospel,” he said. “I think that’s what people appreciate when it comes to me, the band and what we do on stage. Everybody has a thing they do. And for me this has been a treat. I’ve been able to rediscover why I do this.”
Robert Randolph and the Family Band will perform on Thursday, Dec. 28, at O.P. Rockwell, 268 Main St. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show will start at 9 p.m. with SarahAnne DeGraw. Tickets range from $35-$65. For information, visit http://www.oprockwell.com.
“Park City Follies,” the annual musical spoof, will open Friday, April 26, for a nine-show run at the Egyptian Theatre