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Robert Randolph & the Family Band with Memphis Crawl at the Space at Westbury

Mike Perciaccante By

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Robert Randolph & the Family Band with Memphis Crawl
Space at Westbury
Westbury, NY
July 22, 2017

Robert Randolph and the Family Band is a New Jersey-based funk and soul outfit led by pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph (who has sometimes been called the "Jimi Hendrix of the pedal steel guitar"). The majority of the Family Band is comprised of Randolph's blood—his cousins play drums, keyboards and bass and his sister Lenesha Randolph handles the background and occasional lead vocals. Guitarist Brett Haas is not a relative.

Robert Randolph started playing the pedal steel guitar in church in his hometown of Newark, NJ. As a regular attendee at the House of God Church, Randolph learned to play by watching other steel players during church services. Eventually he set forth and updated his religious-based gospel-influenced sound with a mix of funk, rock, soul, pop, jazz and even a touch of country.

In 2000, Randolph was discovered by Jim Markel and Gary Waldman who began managing the guitarist. Matt Hickey, the booker for the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, soon signed Randolph to open for the North Mississippi Allstars. In short time, Randolph was playing with Medeski, Martin & Wood at the fabled Beacon Theater. Eventually Randolph recorded a an instrumental gospel/blues album with that band. The resulting album, The Word (Rope A Dope Records, 2001) received critical and popular acclaim.

Soon after, Randolph got together with his relatives to form the Family Band. The first Robert Randolph and the Family Band album, Live at the Wetlands, was released in 2002 on Family Band Records. In 2003, the group released its first studio album, Unclassified (Warner Brothers Records). Colorblind (Warner Brothers Records, 2006) followed and featured Eric Clapton playing guitar on "Jesus Is Just Alright." The band's third Warner Brothers Records studio recording We Walk This Road was released in 2010. Blue Note Records released Lickety Split in 2013. In early 2017, Got Soul was released by Sony Masterworks. In addition to Clapton, Trombone Shorty; Dave Matthews; Ben Harper; T-Bone Burnett; Leon Russell; Doyle Bramhall II; Jay Bellerose; Jim Keltner; Carlos Santana and many others have appeared on Robert Randolph & The Family Band albums. Over the years Randolph has been a guest performer on albums by among others: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Dave Mathews Band, Los Lobos, Ringo Starr, Santana, Elton John & Leon Russell, Robbie Robertson and Buddy Guy.

Randolph's concerts are known for their energy and dynamic performances. Randolph has been known to invite fans onto the stage to dance while the band plays on. It is not uncommon for the band members to switch instruments over and over again during extended jams—so much so that at various points during these instrumentals each of the band members is playing an instrument different from his original. This is a band that features superb musicians who are also world-class multi-instrumentalist virtuosos.

Memphis Crawl hails from New York City and Long Island. Lead singer Matty "Soulman" O'Brien (with his Jim Morrison-like stage persona) was influenced by Delta blues, classic rock 'n' roll and down and dirty funk. Along with guitarist Stevens, bassist Arvin Q. Rojas and percussionist Michael Powder, Memphis Crawl has played across the U.S. and in Europe. The group's motto is "play like it's your last night on earth!!" This fiery combo with its fan-base known as "The CrawlDogs" perfectly complimented the high-energy of Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

On a cool and somewhat drizzly Saturday evening in late July, Robert Randolph & the Family Band along with Memphis Crawl touched down at Westbury NY's the Space. The mid-sized venue was set-up for dancing with the orchestra seats placed slightly back from the stage to allow the fans to express themselves right in front of the performers.

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