Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Matt Oliver, Mastering by Sam Patlove
Robert Randolph might promote the word of the Lord and His mercy mild, but he and his Family Band rarely go mild themselves, sacrificing limbs and dry shirts for music that places a life-sized sun between the front and back cages of everyone listening's ribs and jackrabbits in every foot. The alternative form of scripture and the Good Word that Randolph writes and performs is aerobic and spindly, spiky and thumping, taking people into places where they have no choice but to FEEL it, really, fucking FEEL it. It sways and swerves you, forces you to participate in the words and the music, probably like you've never done before. Randolph, as a front man, is powerful and enthralling, casting his groove out as if his spirit is unable to be contained. He's a believer and a shaker, a man who insists on being guided by those inner coals and those deep-down convictions that are branded on his soul. He and his band's new album, "We Walk This Road," carries on his tradition of making some of the most incredible praise music of anyone writing and working today. It swells with heart and with the spontaneous hallelujahs of people who are alive with fire and joy, both working in collusion with each other to make a triumphant trumpeting.
Randolph sings and plays to the heavens, but it just so happens that the moon is located in the same northerly direct where he cocks his throat and it feels as if he doesn't care if he sounds like a preacher or a common wolf howling it out and up to the white orb and the clouds. The band, from the pews of the churches of Orange, New Jersey, stumps for salvation and the ever-lifting power of the idea that things aren't going to end when the eyes close for the last time. He sings about seeing others again on the other side and that soothing thought of moving on to somewhere else, somewhere thought to be better, is obviously a religious building block - the payoff that all followers are begging on - and it plays out frequently in Randolph's songs. During the morning of this recording, at Big Orange, the day before the band was set to play the Austin City Limits festival, Randolph was already wired, ecstatic and in great spirits, commenting at the end of recording, "May God bless all of you out there. Cookies, brownies and cakes. May you all have a piece of candy." He makes you positively feel lucky to be alive and while he feels like he's got the Big Guy to thank for such blessings in his life, it comes across as not needing to be a requirement. We don't have to belong to any church to get filled with his spirit, to feel what he's feeling. He gets us there. He gets it into our bones. He knows that there are all kinds of points and halfway points where people can rest their faiths or non-faiths and he sings on "I Still Belong To Jesus," "Someone woke up today and saw it all in a different way/…I still belong/Even though I turned my back/The finger-pointin' preacher screams/He's huntin' sinners in his dreams/But Jesus didn't start no war/He reached his hands out to the poor/He said, 'The lame will walk and the blind will see'/Take care my people, you'll take care of me." He makes us believe.