Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Lickety Split (Blue Note)

Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Lickety Split, album cover

Blue Note Records has added a new sound since it was known for Art Blakey, Horace Silver, and Lee Morgan. Now it’s moved into the rhythm and blues world with albums by Al Green, Aaron Neville, and pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph. This latest disc, Lickety Split, is a full on rock/rhythm and blues/funk party record. Randolph comes from the sacred steel tradition, and there are still some spiritual elements in his music as the theme and gospel background vocals of “Born Again” and the opening solo of “Get Ready.” Most of the album, however, reflects the aptly titled first track “Amped Up.” Randolph’s guitar playing is prominent throughout the record. His command of the pedal steel guitar, one of the most expressive instruments, is excellent. He makes it lyrical on “New Orleans” and rocks it 1980s style on “All American.” His covers of “Love Rollercoaster” is full of fun, as is the final track, “Good Lovin’.” Randolph’s only fault is his lyrics. They are adequate to good, but clichés reign on “New Orleans” and “Take the Party” (although Trombone Shorty almost makes up for it). On a record where the music is this energetic and fun, one might be able to overlook trite words, but it can make the songs blend together instead of being distinctive. Aside from the lyrics, this is high energy, upbeat record with fine, varied, and searing guitar work.