On the cover of his latest album We Walk This Road, Robert Randolph seems to be healing his instrument by laying on hands. That instrument, the pedal steel or—in the church context from which Randolph emerged—the sacred steel, has doubtlessly done its share of healing over the years to wider and more diverse congregations. In 2000, Randolph started playing secular gigs in New York City, and a gig at the Bowery Ballroom with North Mississippi All-Stars led them to the jam band community who quickly embraced the soaring exploration of his solos. From there, Randolph’s profile has ascended an arc like the piercing glissandi he plays.
Under the careful guidance of producer T Bone Burnett, Randolph and his Family Band resemble a latter day Los Lobos on We Walk This Road; seasoned musicians capable of drawing every influence in and making it their own. “I Still Belong to Jesus” sounds so much like Fleetwood Mac, I’m surprised when Stevie Nicks doesn’t pop up, but it’s the backwoods blues on “Don’t Change” and the soul bump of “Dry Bones” that give this album its real teeth. No matter how much they expand their sound or how many hippie gatherings they’ve played, Randolph never shies away from his gospel themes and though they are playing Tipitina’s on a Saturday night, saints and sinners alike are going to get taken to church and might just find themselves healed.
Robert Randolph and the Family Band at Tipitina’s, Saturday, October 9. $25.