WHAT IS THE WORD?

Stream 'Joyful Sounds' | Download MP3

a) a new band and record made up of John Medeski, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Robert Randolph.

b) An homage to the centuries-old style of gospel music dubbed "Sacred Steel" by the venerable House of God.

c) one of the most electrifying, dynamic and altogether ass-kicking rock-gospel-blues record in years.

d) all of the above.

When was the last time a band's debut show blew away the crowd, leaving hundreds with hands raised in the air in the middle of the night? On Wednesday, June 27th, at the Bowery Ballroom, the world got their first taste of The Word. This band, seemingly backed by the power of god, brought a mix of gospel, blues, and southern rock and roll that emanated positive energy from the stage.

Read Aaron's review from that Wendesday night Bowery Ballroom Revival

The Word starts out with the North Mississippi Allstars, who themselves have a tight groove locked in from their years playing together in North Mississippi, as well as a host of other states. Then add the insane genius of John Medeski on the Hammond B3 to take this party up a few notches. But it is the sunshine-flavored pedal steel guitar of Robert Randolph that adds something truly special, and makes this band frankly unclassifiable. This is a band that flirts with the dichotomy of greasy swamp blues and happy gospel rock, taking these seemingly opposite feelings and weaving these Joyful Sounds in and out of each other.

What is the origin of The Word? The head of ropeadope records, Andy Hurwitz explains:

"NMAs and MMW were on tour together back in '99. Luther Dickinson (guitarist of the NMAs) and John became tight and started dreaming up plans to do an instrumental gospel record. When we started ropeadope, that concept was one of the first ideas to come out of pow-wows with John and we decided to pursue it. It took a while to get everyone to commit to a week for recording, but we worked it out. In the meantime John, Luther, Cody, and Chris Chew (bassist for the NMAs) started sending each other tapes of music they wanted to cover. In their research, Luther uncovered Sacred Steel Live, which was released on the Arhoolie label. On that record a guy named Robert Randolph plays on one track, which was his first recording ever!

"The NMAs become obsessed with the track and with Robert. They go on a mad hunt and track the cat down. Turns out he lives in Jersey and never played outside of the church... ever. The Allstars happen to be playing at the Bowery (in NYC) and they convince Robert to come out and warm up for them. It's the same night that me and Medeski are going down to talk to Luther and Cody about the final details for the gospel record which was then almost two weeks away. Robert gets on stage for his set and instantly tore the roof off the Bowery in like three notes! By the end of the show me and John and NMA were totally freaked and also totally convinced that we had to get this guy to play on a track or two. The forces of the universe conspired and when they got in the studio the five of them just instantly locked in and made musical love. Five days later, they emerged with a record and a new band."

So What is the final word on The Word? Great music that will lift your soul and spirits. The good news for you is that The Word has got a record coming out on July 31, an album so powerful it may induce world peace. And you just might get a chance to see what The Word is all about on their August tour:

See The Word on the East Coast, get The Word record on July 31, and get more at the new website, WhatIsTheWord.com.

Enter The Word Contest for your chance to win a CD, poster or t-shirt!
[Published on: 7/23/01]

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