Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Brighter Days
Provogue – 2019
10 tracks; 39 minutes
Robert Randolph & The Family Band have been on the scene for some years with their distinctive mix of sacred steel gospel and rock-blues, placing rhythm very much at the heart of the music. The band is a genuine family affair with Robert on steel guitar and vocals, his cousins Danyel Morgan on bass and Marcus Randolph on drums, plus his sister Lanesha on vocals. This review was based on a download of the album and no other credits were available so it has not been possible to identify other musicians involved though keyboards are clearly present. Equally there are no writing credits though most of the album appears to be original. For this latest project Robert teamed up with Dave Cobb who is best known for producing alt-country stars like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton.
The opener “Baptise Me” has plenty of Robert’s steel guitar set over a tough rocking tune while the rhythm section sets a frenetic pace on “Don’t Fight It” though the lyrics are rather repetitive. The pace drops for “Simple Man” which states how Robert sees the world: “Tell you what’s wrong in the world today, people gone done and put the bible away. Watch where you’re going, remember where you’ve been, that’s the way I see it, I’m a simple man.” “Have Mercy” is another ballad that rolls along with steel accents over bubbling bass and piano/organ backing as Lanesha shares the vocals with her brother, a fine piece of modern gospel music. Things get heavier on “Cut ‘Em Loose” which has a definite rock edge to it, Robert sounding as much like a Metal guitarist as a sacred steel player, and on “Second Hand Man” which has strong piano underpinning a chugging rocker. The elegant ballad “Cry Over Me” is a feature for Lanesha’s vocals who proves to be a fine singer here, supported by choral backing vocals, Robert stepping in to play a lovely solo.
Two shorter tracks follow: “I Need You” is a classic ballad which Robert sings well, supported by choral vocals; “I’m Living Off The Love You Give” (Homer Banks/Raymond Jackson) is the Little Milton song, covered here as a catchy rocker with a hook-laden chorus. The album closes with the longest cut, “Strange Train” which barrels along at a frantic pace using the familiar image of needing to get on board the train that will take you to salvation.
Fans of the band will be pleased to have a new album and one that returns to the cornerstones of earlier releases. Those who like fast-paced steel guitar picking will also be well served.