Robert Randolph & The Family Band: Lickety Split

Robert Randolph & The Family Band perform triumphantly on a collection of saddeningly inferior songs, leading one to wonder if the three-year span between We Walk This Road and Lickety Split was due to writer's block.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Label: Blue Note
Title: Lickety Split
US Release Date: 2013-07-16
UK Release Date: 2013-07-22

I've seen them live. The gospel-infused funky rock roots band that commandingly whips a crowd of drug-laced earth muffins and hopheads into some sort of a revivalist frenzy. .. that's the Family Band I've seen. If you haven't witnessed the fury of true black gospel music (from ANY denomination) in the church house on any given Sunday morning in the South, then think of the effect James Brown had on Joliet Jake in The Blues Brothers. Even though that scene in the movie is farcical, it pretty much sums up the frantic zeal gospel music from the southern inner cities evokes ... complete with gymnastics from the geriatric portion of the congregation. This ability to move the crowd to that level of excitement is why Randolph's name is frequently in huge font on the posters of the festivals he and the Family Band play. This is the bread and butter of what makes him a superstar ... hard touring. Well that, and the fact he can whip a pedal steel like no one else.

Since his name was first heralded just over a decade ago, the spinsters have dealt Randolph quite a few cringeworthy titles along the way. Once the PR machine got their hands on him, he was the next Clapton. The next Ry Cooder by way of Leo Nocentelli. My favorite promo one-sheet hype-line is "The Jimi Hendrix of Pedal Steel". That's quite a reach stylistically, and a reach that is way off course. Robert Randolph is the Robert Randolph of pedal steel. Comparing an originator to another originator de-values one of them, and that's just mean. These things happen, though. Journalists seek sensational headlines, purposefully luring you in to the hype 'regurgatory' for their personal gain. Because Robert Randolph's pedal-steel skills are truly original in the framework of rock and funk, it's easy to sensationalize him. The expectations are always high for the groundbreakers. I expected the next triumph, too. Lickety Split let me down.

The only problem here is material, and that's a big problem when it almost spans the entire album. I'm sure I would have a different opinion of these songs if I were hearing them live, caught up in the heated moment amidst a haze of ganja smoke, four-day-old sweaty BO, sandalwood vapors, and a blatant overuse of the word 'man' heard throughout the crowd. I can see where the anthemic opener "Amped Up" would flip folks out thanks to the aerobic rhythms and testosterone-inspired declarations. If Carlos Santana were to join the Family Band on stage for "Take the Party", the call from Randolph and the answer from Santana's guitar would make more sense. "Love Rollercoaster" would be a brutal encore number, but as a studio track? Not so much. "Blacky Joe" embarrassed me for them.

It's important to point out the performances on Lickety Split are smokin'. Stellar musicianship is this record's cornerstone, as well as the engineering and mixing from Eddie Kramer and Jim Scott, respectively. Everyone gets A's on how they executed their performances, and I'll even tout the solos from Randolph to be his most exploratory and virile. As it stands, this selection of songs did not translate well to the sterile environment of the studio, and, because of that, the final product falls flat on feeling the spirit.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.