Listening to Robert Randolph play the pedal steel is like being in church. And given there will be many in this Telluride Jazz Festival crowd who consider listening to music surrounded by towering mountains under bluebird skies a kind of church, this set will leave us all sanctified.
Robert grew up in the House of God Church in New Jersey, where music plays a pivotal role in helping worshippers get closer to God. Called sacred steel by its practitioners, it is passionate, ferociously-played music that gets both congregations and secular audiences on their feet. Robert knew nothing but sacred music and the church until he was a teenager. He’d never heard of Buddy Guy or The Allman Brothers. But when he discovered the worlds of soul, funk and blues, he blended those sounds with the rousing form of gospel he knew so well. “It’s all connected,” he has said. Robert has taken the secular world by storm and is a fixture on the festival circuit, where he and his band’s improvisational wizardry stands shoulder to shoulder with any jam band on the bill.
Their latest record is Got Soul and yes, it does. It earned him a Grammy nomination in 2017 for Best Contemporary Blues Album. On record and live the band brings on the heat with a soulful Earth, Wind & Fire vibe, coupled with the loose-yet-tight communal collaboration made famous by bands like Sly & The Family Stone.
He’s got this compulsion to get on his feet and dance, letting his band set the kettle on high while he moves with abandon across the stage. You’ll be dancing, too. After all, this is church and it’s time to raise your hands in the air and testify.