Robert Randolph and the Family Band: Colorblind

Conventional wisdom says the modern world just isn't as friendly to bands who don't have names constructed from artful nonsense.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band


Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2006-10-10
UK Release Date: Available as import

Bands like Robert Randolph and the Family Band tend to get the shaft from both industry big-shots and the pajama-clad blog dorks who wish they were same, thanks to the decided anti-hipster vibe to their material. Randolph's is a mighty funky stew with a good degree of meat-and-potatoesness to it; it's at once familiar and blood-rattling but something that can have trouble grabbing much of a market foothold in a crowded marketplace. Major label aside, Randolph often finds himself in the same boat as, say, the Hold Steady or Lucero: These guys sound great, but where the hell do we tuck them? Conventional wisdom says the modern world just isn't as friendly to bands who don't have names constructed from artful nonsense.

The pedal steel maestro Randolph, then, is forced to do this thing that bands used to do, which is tour a whole really lot. They've done so with great efficiency. The Family Band (loaded with his actual cousins) is a live monster, disciples of the churches of Prince, Sly Stone, and James Brown. The band's debut, Unclassified, with its blues and gospel emphases put them decisively on the radar;  Colorblind, its more focused, expansive and paint-peeling-off-the-damn-walls follow-up, opens them up to the lands of New Orleans soul, classic rock, and extremely mighty funk. These songs are practically begging to be sampled live, but Randolph and band have thoughtfully packed plenty of joyful noise in here to tide you over.

Somewhat refreshingly, Randolph is aspiring to a big a tent on Colorblind; indeed, here's a guy who regularly covers Michael Jackson sans irony and is responsible for at least one football-night theme song. Randolph acknowledges those wide-reaching aspirations on opener "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That", a ref-whistle-powered stomp that opens up the party to anyone and everyone: "Hollywood or in the 'hood/ Block party, frat party, backyard or boulevard," he howls as a chorus gleefully replies “It don't matter!” Somewhere between a military march, halftime show and a Crescent City stompfest, it's just dirty enough to be funky, just sunshiney enough at chorus time to soar in whatever crowd the band finds itself in front of that night (aside from their personal stance, the title probably refers to both the multiracial band and its equally sprawling fan base).

"Ain't Nothing Wrong", in fact, kicks off a monster opening set with something for everyone: the Sly-rock of "Deliver Me" starts and stops at exactly the right spots, with the funk-gospel choir lurking in the background. The vampy, rollicking "Diane" name-checks Kiss, throws in bursts of shiny horn, and never lets the wah-wah guitar vanish for more than a few bars.

Live, Randolph applies his swamp-fox choogle to cover songs a lot; his ability to find the groovy underbelly in a track has served him well, even when he's digging around in "Billie Jean" or "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". Colorblind sees him corraling those instincts a bit, though there's a frothy and worthy stab at "Jesus Is Just Alright" with Eric Clapton that speaks to Randolph's rep as a bandleader -- his presence and influence helped briefly wake Eric up out of his nap. Randolph also nails Sly Stone's own "Thankful N' Thoughtful" and calls in a favor from Dave Matthews and Leroi Moore on "Love Is the Only Way".

Colorblind's obligatory ballads tend to drag, and God knows such aggressive love-is-all positivity, especially coming from a guy who got his start preaching Pentecostal goodness, can be a tough sell among the snifflier segment of the music elite. But Randolph's aspirations are big ones, and his band, songwriting and fingers are up to the task -- it's easy to see him appealing to the Bonnaroo, Clapton and ESPN sets all at once. It's crowded in the tent, but well worth stopping by.


This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.