Hitting The Trunk Road | Robert Randolph

With Lickety Split, his fourth studio album, Randolph offers brilliant reminders of the heights to which he can rise. It’s not a perfect album or one destined to be his breakout, but it’s easily his most solid effort to date. Where We Walk This Road sounded like T Bone Burnett’s idea of what a pedal steel maven’s magnum opus should sound like, Lickety Split sounds like the band’s idea of what the ideal Robert Randolph & The Family Band album should sound like. Quite possibly, the optimal album falls somewhere in between. “Amped Up,” the opening track, falls squarely within the realm of Randolph’s College Gameday catalog and “Take The Party” and “Brand New Wayo,” which receive significant boosts from Trombone Shorty and Santana, are festival ready. Lickety Split contains the obligatory gospel ballad that beseeches faith without being overtly religious and unnecessary covers of the Ohio Players” “Love Rollercoaster” and The Rascals’ “Good Lovin’.” “Blacky Joe,” however, balances everything out. Possibly the best studio track Randolph & The Family Band have ever laid down, it features a fantastic coda with Randolph and Santana riffing off each other in a friendly guitar duel that brings out the best in both of them.

Of course, this perception of Randolph’s career presumes that his plans gibe with those the jamband world set out for him. Randolph wouldn’t be the first musician to establish his bona fides with the jamband world as a means towards seeking a wider audience. It may not make for the most exciting moments on a festival stage but Randolph’s gospel leanings, which originate to his pre-Word days, are genuine and very few musicians would turn away from the financial security of mainstream success. While those that read sites like JamBase are perfectly content to see their favorites evolve into Mountain Jam headliners, quite often, the artists are intent on climbing different mountains. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and Michael Franti & Spearhead have confronted the same issues, only their inroads to the mainstream have produced more tangible success.

OFFRAMPS AND REST STOPS

FOR ANYONE THAT CHOOSES to ignore the warning of searching for rock and roll saviors, Leroy Justice will surely liberate them from a world of talent show “success stories,” electronic bleepy-bloops and whatever the hell Miley Cyrus thinks she’s doing these days. On Above The Weather, their third studio effort, the East Coast rockers offer manna from the heavens for those that still revel in phenomenal rock albums. Anthems in search of arena, songs like “Up On The Mountain,” “So Long” and “Two Trees” reach the majestic heights they aim for, finding the right spaces to emphasize Sloan Marshall’s organ and Justin Mazer’s guitar. It took a song as great as The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “Straight Up And Down” to keep Steve Buscemi from watching Boardwalk Empire’s hooch-filled tide to the strains of “Watch Him Fall.” That swagger runs through “Blue Eyed Blues” and “Worry” while the band confidently takes a Santana-like stroll in the midst of “Before I Die.” The soulful vocals of charismatic frontman Jason Gallagher form the heart of the album, conveying an eternal, indefatigable strength. Like true rock singers, Gallagher imbues his vocals with the right touch of battered and bruised emotion without ever casting doubt on his ability to persevere.

There is unlikely to be a better rock and roll album released in 2013.

EVER SINCE HELL FROZE OVER and The Eagles returned to the road, it has repeatedly been proven that that there is nothing more exciting than a reunion. On September 21, that point will be confirmed once more when U-Melt reunites at the Brooklyn Bowl, playing their first show together in nearly three years. Originators of progressive groove, a wicked blend of electronica-style dance riffs, intricate prog-rock twists and turns and wildly compelling improvisation, U-Melt was a thinking man’s jamband, capable of exhilarating those that came to party while simultaneously intriguing those who appreciate expert musicianship. Eclectic, energetic and flat-out fun, U-Melt transformed each individual concert into an unmissable event, their New Year’s Eve shows never disappointed and their after-hours marathons were always rewarding.

Well versed in the philosophy that a concert should be its own unique experience, each U- Melt show featured Zac Lasher’s brilliance at forming compelling soundscapes with his bevy of keyboards, Rob Salzer’s wizardry as an electrifying guitarist, Adam Bendy’s mastery of weaving deceptively complex bass lines into the mix and George Miller’s remarkable versatility of shifting the mood from pacific jazz to pulsing untz with a single beat of the snare drum. When Salzer left the band in late 2009, Kevin Griffin stepped into the fold, offering new variations on familiar themes. When the band reunites at the Brooklyn Bowl for one more after-hours affair, it will mark the first time that U-Melt plays with both Salzer and Griffin. For those within the Tri-State area, something truly special awaits.

COMMERCIALS ARE RARELY a font for legitimate humor. However, if someone wants to open a hipster troll car wash somewhere along the Trunk Road, permits shall be granted. Now, queen my dishes, please.

Words By: David Schultz

[Published on: 9/11/13]

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