Robert Randolph and the Family Band
Robert Randolph and the Family Band raise the studio roof for Lickety Split, the group’s Blue Note Records debut. Tempos are nearly always upbeat, in the extreme, for the lively, mostly original collection.
The Family Band, including singer-pedal steel guitarist Randolph’s family members Marcus Randolph, drums, and Lenesha Randolph, vocals, play together as instinctively as a family band should. A few guest stars — New Orleans’ Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Latin-rock electric guitar maestro Carlos Santana — also appear.
Randolph, raised in the musical tradition of the House of God Church, an African-American Pentecostal denomination that features pedal steel guitar in its services, returns to church with the gospel-feeling “Get Ready.” Otherwise, even though the distinctive sound of the Family Band’s sacred-steel roots are present to one degree or another, Lickety Split is a secular celebration of many musical colors.
“Take the Party” features Randolph’s steel guitar and Trombone Shorty’s trombone in high-spirited dialogue, plus that simple but effective device, handclapping. “Amped Up,” another party song, moves with zydeco drive. Southern soul flows through “Born Again.” In “New Orleans,” two contrasting perspectives, in both music and lyrics, appear, one sung by Randolph, the other sung by his sister, Lenesha.
Santana contributes his unmistakable guitar to two tracks, high-speed funk number “Brand New Wayo” and, a song that builds into an all-out Southern rock anthem, “Blacky Joe.”
As much as a recording can probably do, Lickety Split bottles the energy Robert Randolph and the Family Band make on a stage.
Court Yard Hounds
Emily Robison and Martie Maguire are still two of the Dixie Chicks, but they also have their own project, Court Yard Hounds. Robison and Maguire, who are sisters, released their second Court Yard Hounds album, Amelita, last week. It follows their Dixie Chicks bandmate Natalie Maines’ solo debut, Mother, by two months.
The new Court Yard Hounds album continues the winning standard set by the duo’s self-titled 2010 debut. The songs, most of them written by the Hounds themselves or with collaborators, flow with easy catchiness. Acoustic, rootsy arrangements temper the songs’ overall pop-country sound.
As with the Court Yard Hounds’ debut, Robison does most of the lead singing. Her sister adds ringing sibling harmony that lifts the songs higher. Lyrics can be pointed. In the wake of Robison’s divorce from singer-songwriter Charlie Robison, and with the Dixie Chicks pursing non-Chicks projects, it’s tempting to wonder who’s being sung about.
“You pity all those who lack your high breeding,” Robison accuses in opening song “Sunshine.” “So I can see the reason you don’t have anybody left.” Similar sentiments surface in “The World Smiles” and its message about turning to the bright side.
Including “Rock All Night,” a louder song that could fit on a Sheryl Crow album, and the sassy “Watch Your Step,” Amelita stands up from track one through track 11.