reCAP :: Robert Randolph & The Family Band :: 2013.11.23
"It's Thanksgiving week, so this is still special to me!" –Robert Randolph
The Cap has done it again and this time there was even a super hero sighting. For anyone who spoke with Robert Randolph at the after-party, it was clear that you were speaking with a Clark Kent post-transformation from Superman. For over two hours, sacred steel master Robert Randolph and his family band rocked a packed party house on a raucous Saturday night in Port Chester on November 23. The rock guitar inferno proved a fertile ground for an inspired danceathon.
Hailing from neighboring Orange, New Jersey, Randolph, nicknamed "the Jimi Hendrix of Pedal Steel," has been enthralling mass audiences since he burst on the national scene with exposure performing as part of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival in the early 2000s. Although the pedal steel guitar is one of the most difficult instruments in which to be proficient, he shares his superior prowess with seaming effortlessness. The amiable smile of the enigmatic and energetic flashy artist permeate The Cap as he shares his euphoric explosion of gritty guitar riffs and up-tempo chops. A virgin listener to the unique musings he exudes may be initially intimidated by the incendiary fire power he offers on stage, but it possesses a distinct flair that is hard not to fall in love with.
He introduced his Family Band castmates who include his, "...little cousin on organ," "...cousin Marcus (Randolph) on the drums," and "...cousin Danyel (Morgan) on the bass." On this special night, the band included two additional guitarist extraordinaires: Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce) and Papa Mali (7 Walkers). To round out the convergence of über-talented musicians was The Rolling Stone's saxman, Bobby Keys. Similar to when Randolph plays with guitar virtuoso Luther Dickenson in his side project, The Word, Kraz is more laid back here than he is with his other bands, rather playing 2nd guitar, adding another layer and admirable fills. Morgan could often be seen bouncing beats while perched atop the amp. The result is a subtle sound that grows more intense — teased with slow riffs before exploding as it climbs to crescendo.
Randolph is indisputably one of the greatest guitarists of our generation and Rolling Stone Magazine included him in their list of the "Top 100 Guitarists of All-Time" list. With Stevie Ray Vaughan credited as major influence, Randolph is now the one inspiring legions of future strummers. Known to primarily sit behind his kit, Randolph started the show standing up and played a couple on a handheld pedal steel. Randolph is particularly adept at epic covers as he translates them into his own magical style and interpretation. The first highlight was a bombastic and dark version of Jimi Hendrix's, "Are You Experienced?" which was sung by Morgan and buoyed by a face-melting solo by Randolph. Soon thereafter, two over-zealous individuals, caught up in the music, took to the stage with a tambourine and were seamlessly and effectively led off stage right by a stagehand.
With surreal images of Where the Wild Things Are characters adorning The Cap's walls, Robert Randolph led the talented troupe into a lengthy jam session of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" complete with exploratory noodling. Randolph didn't do his patented breaking of stools or stomping of chairs — he was too focused on shredding this night. He did place his left foot up on the guitar frets while banging away with fury at his axe. The frenzy reached a fever pitch with Randolph exclaiming, "When you hear a drum beat like that, don't be afraid to stomp your feet," before proceeding into the repetitive gyrating groove on Sly and the Family Stone's "Thank You" which included tasty soloing from Kraz. Randolph sat alone to perform a Christmas song as his first encore before a jubilant and jammed-out sexy extended version of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" took the barn-burning event home.
One can become excited pondering what superhero The Cap may bring out next, but on this evening, Randolph saved the day and there was no kryptonite in sight. He owned the place. Randolph is playing in support of his new album Lickety Split which was released on his new Blue Note Records label.