New Jersey Stage
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND Come To Newton Theatre
When Robert Randolph talks about his new album, Lickety Split, a few words come up over and over—"joy," "freedom," "energy." Which is no surprise, really, because those are the same things that immediately spring into a listener's mind when these twelve tracks from the virtuoso pedal steel guitarist and his longtime accompanists, the Family Band, explode out of the speakers.
"Robert Randolph is an American Original," says Don Was, President of Randolph's new label, Blue Note Records. "He has mastered what is, arguably, the most complex instrument in the world and developed a unique voice that is equal parts street-corner church and Bonnaroo. This album finally captures the energy and excitement of his legendary live performances."
The new album showcases the unique chemistry of the Family Band—comprised of the guitarist's actual family members Marcus Randolph, Danyel Morgan, and Lenesha Randolph, together with guitarist Brett Haas.
Robert Randolph & The Family Band first gained national attention with the release of the album Live at the Wetlands in 2002. The band followed with three studio recordings over the next eight years—Unclassified, Colorblind, and We Walk This Road—which, together with tireless touring and unforgettable performances at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, won them an expanding and passionate fan base. Randolph's unprecedented prowess on his instrument garnered him a spot on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list, and also attracted the attention of such giants as Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana, who have collaborated with him on stage and in the studio.
"What I've learned from being around those guys—and you never really notice it until the moment is away from you—is that it's really important to them that someone keeps original music going, that you're not just trying to be like everybody else," he says. "Eric really wants to know what's going on now, he's always going 'Show me that lick again!'—they're like little kids, and that's really the great part about it. It makes me think that I need to keep getting better, to stay excited and keep trying to be innovative and keep growing."
Most recently, Randolph has attempted to amplify the tradition from which he came by executive producing the Robert Randolph Presents the Slide Brothers album, a recording which features some of the older "sacred steel" players from the House of God church who inspired him to pick up an instrument. "This is part of my whole story, which a lot of people don't understand," he says. "In our church organization, playing lap steel in church has been going on since the 1920s. These guys were my mentors, my Muddy Waters and B.B. Kings. Thinking that I started this style is like saying Stevie Ray Vaughan was the first guy to play the blues. I wanted to do this record so that everybody could understand the story and start connecting the dots."
He is also taking a bold new step by remodeling an abandoned school building in his hometown of Irvington, New Jersey and opening the Robert Randolph Music and Arts Program. "There hasn't been any arts in the schools, period, since I was in high school," he says. "So my whole motivation changed to a full-on effort to get these kids into music, and also find out what other passions they have and try to offer that. These kids don't have anything to do, they don't have any hope."
With a new label, a new dedication to his craft, and a new sense of responsibility in his life off-stage, it seems like Lickety Split might also represent the urgency Robert Randolph is bringing to all of his efforts these days. "I'm still undiscovered, and that's really the best thing about it," he says. "Now we have the chance to present the music right, and have the story told right, and for me to be focused on being an ambassador for inner-city kids and a role model, and also an ambassador for my instrument and as an artist. As all these things happened, it got fun again."
Tickets for Robert Randolph and the Family Band are $49.00 for Premium seating, $39.00 for the Orchestra and $29.00 for the Balcony. Tickets for this performance will go on sale on Friday, July 19th at 11:00 am. Purchase tickets by visiting www.thenewtontheatre.com or contact the Box Office at 973-383-3700.
The historic Newton Theatre, located at 234 Spring Street in Newton, NJ, was founded in 1924. Revitalized and fully renovated, Sussex County's premier entertainment venue reopened in 2011 as a 605 seat capacity live performing arts center. With it's rich history and diverse programming The Newton Theatre is essential to the buoyancy of New Jersey's Skylands region. More information about The Newton Theatre may be found by calling 973-383-3700 or by visiting its website at www.TheNewtonTheatre.com.