When you get a new album by Robert Randolph and The Family Band, you know what to expect. Namely Randolph wailing on the pedal steel guitar while the rhythm section gets you moving to the point of being sweaty. You get all of that, and a healthy dose of gospel on the new album Brighter Days (produced by Dave Cobb, out on Mascot).
The gospel feel runs throughout the album, and you get a taste of it immediately with the opening track “Baptise Me.” You hear the gospel sound more in the lyrics and backing vocals by Lenesha Randolph. The melody is raucous and bluesy – much like something from the Fat Possum catalog. The lyrics in “Simple Man” are also steeped in gospel – especially when he says, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong in the world today. People done gone and put their Bibles away.” “Have Mercy” is another good example of the gospel sound. The organ part is the kind you might expect to hear in church at a low volume while the preacher delivers the sermon. The organ and the steel guitar might be more easily noticeable, but the bass line by Danyel Morgan can’t be ignored.
While this album is a return to Randolph’s gospel roots, one of this albums wouldn’t be complete without some song that will get people stomping on a dance floor. The band turns up the tempo and volume on this one. Morgan’s bass line and the beat provided by Marcus Randolph make a rhythm that makes impossible to remain still. Meanwhile, Robert wails on the pedal steel. In the last minute or so of the song, the tempo seems to increase just like in “Shout” when The Isley Brothers encourage you to shout “a little bit louder now.”
The album closes with another song that will get you moving. “Strange Train” is driven by the rhythm section, as is the case with a lot of funk songs. While the melody and rhythm are irresistible, the theme is too. The lyrics are about embracing what you are even if other people see you as strange. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing and clapping along to the phrase, “Hey! You! Catch that strange train.” You could say that this is a great song to play during a workout. It might be more fair to say that listening to this song is a workout that will leave you gasping for breath from all the dancing you’ll do.
This album is just a lot of fun. It is rooted in gospel, but don’t let that frighten you if you’re not the churchgoing type. This kind of gospel is filtered through blues and healthy doses of funk. Put on our dancing shoes when you listen to this one. Brighter Days will be available everywhere on August 23. Order your copy here.