Robert Randolph & The Family Band Re-Energized, Better Than Ever On 'Lickety Split'

The fun(k) is back with the Family Band...
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Rock music has a handful of signature, immediately recognizable sounds that can only come from one source: Chuck Berry's guitar intro, Roger McGuinn's 12-string guitar, Clarence Clemons' saxophone, Angus and Malcolm Young's signature riffing, just to name a few and over the past few years a new one has emerged, that being the sweet, piercing sting and wail of Robert Randolph's Sacred steel.

Randolph has taken a little-known tradition from the church to the mainstream with his mastery of the Sacred steel and created quite a reputation for himself as an instrumentalist and built a following with his Family Band over the course of three studio albums -- Unclassified, Colorblind, We Walk This Road -- and now he comes to us with the exuberant Lickety Split, his first for Blue Note Records.

T Bone Burnett helmed Randolph's outstanding We Walk LP, creating a more vintage, roots-oriented sound and serious tone. Lickety Split brings back the fun and fire of previous outings and while I love We Walk, the return is welcome.

"Amped Up" and "Born Again" are adrenaline-soaked rockers backed by the spectacular rhythm section of bassist Danyel Morgan and drummer Marcus Randolph. Robert's singing is exultant and his playing wild, chaotic, and just the right amount of unrestrained.

It's almost too obvious a choice you wonder how it took so long for the Family Band to take a swing at "Love Rollercoaster." The obvious answer is sometimes the right one because this is a big blast of fun with energy radiating from the speakers with atomic power. Morgan's bass throbs, Randolph's steel shrieks, and the funk is furious. It's a great song powerfully played by a great band who knew exactly what to do with it.

"Brand New Wayo" is a showcase for guest guitarist Carlos Santana and Family Band bassist Morgan, who gets to show off his mastery of the instrument and stylistic knowledge of the greats like Bootsie Collins and Stanley Clarke. "All American" has half the riff of Yes' "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" with some of that same grind in the rhythm guitar but that's where the similarities end (for which we all give thanks).

Randolph continues to grow as a songwriter although and the original material, which comprises the bulk of the album, is solid. He's not a groundbreaking lyricist but unlike too many out there he has things on his mind and can adequately express them. He is a skilled composer and arranger and the vision he has for his band's sound and their collective musical ability are enough to keep them in constant overdrive. Lickety Split is a great listen playing to Randolph & The Family Band's strengths without feeling like a retreat.