Music » Livewire

Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Friday, September 24, at Scene Pavilion.

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We're not ones to bow our heads at the altars of false guitar gods. But Robert Randolph, a pedal-steel virtuoso based in New Jersey, is -- according to many people who'd know better than we would -- a true guitar god, a title he shows off robustly on Unclassified, the major-label studio debut of Randolph and his Family Band. But though the disc ventures a little too often into good-time jam-all-night territory for our radio-weaned tastes, Randolph drives his signature instrumental voice -- a lusciously rounded tone that sounds way too sexed-up for his background of playing at the House of God Church outside Newark -- toward such an unfiltered jubilation that his technique sometimes transcends itself; when the whole family joins in on the hard-groove chorus of "I Need More Love," you'll gladly give it to 'em. There's even a song or two that owes a debt to Stevie Wonder's creamy early '70s work. Demand that Randolph play "Smile" at Scene Pavilion, and hear him reach his higher ground.

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