Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Live at the Wetlands
First Appeared at The Music Box, August 2003, Volume 10, #8
Written by John Metzger
Robert Randolph has been all the rage of late, particularly within the jam band community where he alone has brought much attention to Sacred Steel, the practice of utilizing steel guitars within church services that dates back to the 1930s. Those expecting Live at the Wetlands, Randolph’s debut, to be a straight-forward gospel effort, however, are in for quite a shock. Yes, there are religious overtones scattered throughout the album, but for the most part, this hour-long collection of six songs is simply jammed-out blues-based rock. As such, Live at the Wetlands highlights some of the best and worst aspects of improvisational music, especially when it is within the hands of jam bands. On the downside is the largely unfocused run through Slim Harpo’s Shake Your Hips and the tedious call-and-response vocalizations of both Pressing My Way and I Don’t Know What You Come to Do. These tunes undoubtedly fare better in concert where audience participation and band introductions are necessary, but on record, these indulgences tend to drag the proceedings to a screeching halt. At the other end of the spectrum are the fiery Allman Brothers Band-style grooves of Ted’s Jam, The March, and Tears of Joy which are blissfully impeccable, and even though the songs largely serve as forums in which Randolph can demonstrate his uncanny talent, they never pander to the audience nor do they feel like endlessly infantile streams of instrumental wanking. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box