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Artist Profiles

Meet Steel Sensation Robert Randolph

By Published: January 17, 2003
They also have their own style of improvisation, and their own way of jamming. 'A lot of people get the wrong idea about improvising—like you have to go into something else or something. I have met a lot of musicians on the road and stuff and a lot of people who have their own ideas of what improvising is. I think you just have to keep the basic song... I think it's important to always keep that part of the song going that riff or whatever—that everyone can hear is still that one song, and keep building and building on it.' This is Randolph's method and perhaps his biggest critique at the same time. Live, Randolph seems to expound upon a theme until it can not possibly go any further. His hooks are motivational and repetitive as the band becomes this powerful driving machine creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the church services where this 'Sacred Steel' genre of music originated. 'Improvising is just a natural thing that comes from church too. You would just listen to the song, and stay inside the song, but build on it.'

More recently, Randolph has become involved and fascinated with the song writing process as he is due to release his first studio album in late February/early March. 'On the live record, we had songs that lasted like 18 minutes long, but that was just a show. We didn't know it was going to become an album, and we were just playing out the way we play. Now, I am trying to write these songs that are three and a half or four minutes long with the same energy that our live stuff has,' explains Randolph as he begins discusses plans for the album. 'The songwriting has really become an adventure...I usually have my acoustic or dobro on the bus and I come up with a certain riff or change, or an idea pops into my head and I'll record it, save it and work it into a song eventually. If some words pop into my head, I'm always thinking 'Man, that's a great title for a song'" he explains. 'I've never really been a singer, but now I am trying to write these songs that have a great message with the same energy.'

Randolph's first major recognition came about after opening for the North Mississippi All-Starts in New York City, when he was approached by John Medeski who was in the audience that night. He and members from the North Mississippi All-stars asked Randolph to join them for an idea he had for playing traditional gospel music. This was the formation of the super-group The Word with Luther Dickson, Cody Dickson and Chris Chew of the North Mississippi All-Stars, and John Medeski of Medeski, Martin and Wood, who released an album highlighting traditional gospel standards, followed by two national tours. Once the 'jamband' and live music scene got to hear Robert Randolph, they embraced him with open arms. Since his arrival on the scene, he has not stopped even for a moment as his talent improves, his audiences grow, and his admirers and fellow musicians remain in awe of his abilities.

Through all of his success, growth, improvement and achievement, Randolph still looks to the future with great ambition. Inside the jam and jazz scene, he works with more mainstream goals in mind. He wants to make popular records and he wants to make himself known. 'I really want sell a lot of records'to make perfect, great, records'like Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, a record that is as good 10 years later as when it is first released.' Randolph looks up to fellow artists like Dave Matthews as musicians who have had similar beginnings, who stayed true to their sound, and who have toured heavily and continue to tour and work at making their sound popular and fresh. With this in mind, we should all anticipate the first studio release, and with the start to his career, it seems as though there is nothing Robert Randolph can't accomplish.

Related Article: Blazing Steel Guitarist Robert Randolph Releases "Live At The Wetlands"

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