- Audio CD (April 9, 2002)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Live
- Label: Sci Fidelity Records
- ASIN: B0000659A0
- Average Customer Review: 88 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,348 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Live At The Wetlands
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This album's all about the blazing virtuosity of Robert Randolph. The pop-music arrival of the young pedal-steel guitarist from the Pentecostal church was shepherded last year by the North Mississippi Allstars and groove organist John Medeski in a brilliant album and group called The Word. With his own Family Band and just one spiritual, the lovely "Pressing My Way," on the set list, Randolph sends lightning bolts through the audience in this August 2001 recording at a now-shuttered Manhattan club. He blends the showmanship of his blues inspiration, Stevie Ray Vaughan, with his own unique instrumental mastery, transforming his steel guitar into something more like a lead vocalist. Randolph constantly makes his 13-string guitar play call-and-response with his own singing, and he breathes fire into Slim Harpo's chestnut "Shake Your Hips" by making it a field day for his stabbing splashes of notes and chords, inventing a different melody for his long solos that's more western swing than swamp blues. Although the shout-and-stomp-along original, "I Don't Know What You Come to Do," raises the crowd, it's the 11-minute finale, "Tears of Joy," that is Randolph's showstopper. The tune's a crafty summation of all his gifts: slow, sliding, rich-toned notes and low-buzzing chords; rhythms that pull from the stately qualities of gospel (enhanced by the way Randolph's steel blends with John Ginty's Hammond organ) and the pure exhilaration of rock improvisation; and beautiful tones that echo from honky-tonk to Hendrix. It's the musical equivalent of a white-water thrill ride. --Ted Drozdowski
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However, the songs are not much to write home about. Without exception they are double the length they should have been. They all repeat the central theme for about 10 or so minutes with little or no variations. RANDOLPH plays some choice licks to help keep the listener interested. The obligatory audience participation bits carry on for ever and loose their attraction very quickly. Where RANDOLPH could blister with some solos he keeps encouraging the audience to participate. Might have been good had I been there, but I bought a CD and 6 very predictable songs don't do this artist justice. If you've read the song titles on the CD cover, you've also read the lyrics, or what there is of them.The title gets repeated as often as is necessary to fill in the 10 minute songs. No other lyrics are used. All of this should condem this CD to the 2nd hand bin, but somehow it's hypnotic and RANDOLPH is such a talent that he cannot be ignored. If you like slide guitar, you should buy this even if you find yourself using the skip button.
I normally prefer LIVE CD's but in this case I am really looking forward to a studio CD, hopefully with a better selection of material and a more disciplined approach.
The following summer I saw them play at a local festival, in front of maybe 500 people. By the time it was done, we all were both wound up and worn out. A cd cannot do justice to a live performance. But as the next best thing, this one gets a solid 5 stars.