Families That Play Together…
Slide guitar phenom Robert Randolph returns with a joyful and boisterous noise in Lickety Split, the artist’s first studio album in over three years. Along with his famous Family Band, as well as some celebrity cameos by Carlos Santana (“Brand New Wayo,” “Blacky Joe”) and New Orleans wunderkind Trombone Shorty (“Take the Party”), Randolph hoots and hollers through the session not only with renewed vigor but, as expected, a slew of blazing-hot guitar runs enough to make you fall off your chair. Be sure to tape yourself down for safety.
There’s the sunny, Southern-fried ruckus of “Born Again”—where Lenesha Randolph, Robert’s sister, joins a gospel choir for a truly heavenly funk—a sticky and spirited cover of the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster” and then a few low-key numbers, as in the wafting sweetness of “New Orleans,” where a soft, nighttime verse finds a surprise contradistinction with a bristling and shiny chorus. “Welcome Home” is another more thoughtful and sobering entry, showing respect to those who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan while at the same time exhibiting a dash of wartime skepticism, recalling R&B’s tradition of circumspection, e.g. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”
By the same token, ironically enough, Lickety Split also features the bumptious self-esteem of “All American,” a rugged stars-and-stripes number playing like an audition for the new opening of Monday Night Football. Believe it or not, the song’s hard-edged guitar riff could be kissin’ cousins with the distorted chords of Yes’ 1980s anthem, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” (I know! We’ll let that one sink in.)
All told, between the fuse-breaking energy of opener “Amped Up” and manic euphoria of “Get Ready”—a five-minute instrumental workout that, besides putting Randolph’s genius slide playing on full display, is probably the album’s highest peak— Robert Randolph and the Family Band give us exactly what they intended: 12 tracks of engaging, high-amperage fun, exploding your speakers with funky, soulful gospel sounds. Just don’t blame them if you fall off your chair.