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Interview:
Robert Randolph at Beacon Park, 3 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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It’s been 15 years since Robert Randolph & the Family Band released its debut album “Live At The Wetlands,” introducing the mainstream music to sacred steel and Pentecostal worship music that could go toe to toe with any rock, soul and funk music and leave most of it in the dust.

Since then Rudolph and company have released seven albums -- including this year’s “Got Soul” -- while his distinctive playing has appeared on a variety of albums from Ringo Starr and Rob Thomas to Santana, Elton John, Buddy Guy and even Ozzy Osbourne. The stage is what feels most like home to the troupe, however, and Randolph says he has yet to tire of hauling his pedal steel up before an audience...

• “Got Soul,” which came out in February, is Randolph and company’s first set of new music since 2013’s “Lickety Split” and features guest appearances by Darius Rucker and Snarky Puppy’s Cory Henry. Randolph, 39, says the album was designed to hearken back to his earliest days as a sacred steel player. “I just wanted to embrace all of who I am,” Randolph explains by phone. “I got accepted into this industry as being this inspirational guy that comes from a gospel background and church, but with a different blues, rock ‘n’ roll mentality and mixing up all these things. I want it to feel like a rock ‘n’ roll church.”

• That goes for the message, too, which Randolph wanted as a kind of counterbalance to the angst of last year’s presidential election and the turmoil of the current climate. “I was starting to write so many songs, looking at what’s going around in the world, but I wanted to stick to a theme of love and togetherness,” he says. “It’s really something inspirational, something uplifting, without getting too political. I just wanted to write songs and make music that will take people’s minds off all the negativity that’s going on today. A lot of artists, especially a lot of black artists, we’ve kind of gotten away from really embracing our background. Most of us come from church and we came through hard times, and I think that gets lost and we need to move back that way.”

• While Randolph took some grief early in his career for playing to secular audiences, that’s largely dissipated during the time he’s been playing to wider audiences. “The grief only comes from the old people, who are mostly stuck in their ways, anyway,” Randolph notes. “Some of those people are like, ‘You can’t come back and play in this church. You still the devil.’ But, y’know, every artist that’s ever come from out of the church, from Aretha Franklin or Same Cooke to Marvin Gaye, name ‘em, they’ve all been through it. That’s just the story of understanding God gave you a talent and you going out and using that talent and sharing it with the world. It wasn’t just to share with ourselves. So that stuff doesn’t even bother me anymore.”



If You Go

• Robert Randolph & the Family Band and Thornetta Davis

• 8 p.m. Thursday, July 20.

• Beacon Park at the corner of Grand River and Cass avenues, Detroit.

• Admission is free.

• Visit downtowndetroitpark.com/Beacon-Park.

• Note: Beacon Park’s grand opening weekend continues with Lord Huron and Fifth and Main performing Friday, July 21

Web Site: www.downtowndetroitpark.com/Beacon-Park

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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