Many musicians claim that they "grew up in the church," but for Robert Randolph that is literally the case. The renowned pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and songwriter led such a cloistered childhood and adolescence that he heard no secular music while growing up. If it wasn't being played inside of the House of God Church in Orange, NJ – quite often by Robert and members of his own family, who upheld a long but little known gospel music tradition called sacred steel – Randolph simply didn't know it existed.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band – whose fifth album, Got Soul, will be released in February 2017 – is today an inspiration to the likes of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Derek Trucks, all of whom have played with him and studied his technique. It wasn't until he was out of his teens that Randolph broke away from the confines of his social and musical conditioning and discovered rock, funk, soul, jazz and the jam band scene, soon forging his own sound by fusing elements of those genres.
On Got Soul – which features guest artists Anthony Hamilton, Darius Rucker, Cory Henry – Robert Randolph and the Family Band display their growth and virtuosity within the context of a dozen smartly crafted tunes. "I like both playing live and recording," says Randolph. "The thing about a record is you get a chance to rehearse parts and fine-tune things. But if you look at most great music artists – people like Stevie Wonder – the song is totally different from the show. When you're in the studio, it's hard to improvise without an audience. But for us, well, we've been playing in front of audiences our whole lives."