Y’know, I’ve often wondered about an artist’s mindset when making an album. Obviously every one is different – some have a formula, some are haphazard. Some compose for the sake of the song, and others create songs to fill a disc. I get that…and I also get that you can usually tell the method that was used by listening to the album straight through. The music reveals the story – whether the artist likes it or not.
Perhaps because I’m a writer and I approach everything in life with the eyes of a writer (yes, I make out my grocery list in the form of an outline), I am drawn to music that tells a story. Not literally, mind you – I don’t need every song to be spelled out as blatantly as Brenda and Eddie’s doomed nuptials were in “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”. But, I want to FEEL a story. To feel a beginning and a middle; a struggle and epiphany; a growth and cognizance… and conclude with no loose ends.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you haven’t truly listened to the Blues. And, the Blues is the font from which all Rock and Roll flows.
This week I was sent an album to review which fills all my desired criteria. If it were in book form, “We Walk This Road” by Robert Randolph and the Family Band would be an historical epic.
Released just yesterday, WWTR is an expression of Randolph’s desire to reach back to his musical roots. With the help of legendary award winning songwriter/artist/producer T Bone Burnett (who can do little to no wrong in my eyes), he was able to do more than reach. The two dug deep and struck gold. The project became an exploration of Roots Music, and the result is a masterful blend of blues, gospel and rock that conveys joy, struggle, hope and faith…sometimes all in the same song! This music MOVED me – to think, to sing, to clap and to shout.
(Yes, I said shout. I listened to it completely through twice – on the way to and from dropping my son at Pre-School Summer Camp. By the second listen to “If I Had My Way” on the ride home, I was joyfully singing along at the top of my lungs, stomping on the floorboards and banging gleefully on the steering wheel. I did wait until I was off school grounds, though…)
Now, Robert Randolph got his start in church. Many of these tracks hearken back to the roots of his faith. In this economy and the condition of the world…I find that faith and spirit to be refreshing and uplifting without being oppressively “religious”. (Let’s just say it was a dose of exactly what this “fallen away Catholic” needed.)
Here. I’ll let Robert tell you himself:
And he sums it up thusly:
This record is a celebration of African-American music over the past one hundred years and its social messages from the last thirty. Although we cover a whole timeline of different eras on We Walk This Road, what ties these songs together remain their message of hope, their ability to uplift.
Amen, Brother Randolph. Amen.
Listen for vintage Blues songs reworked, rocking new material fused with old, and Gospel’s loving wings gently cradling it all. Covers of Dylan, Lennon and Prince coexist beautifully with early Southern spirituals, and Randolph uses his signature pedal steel guitar to weave them together into a tapestry. A triumph. A story… in which everyone can find a passage written just for them.
To hear the album in its entirety, head over to Spinner. Pay particular attention to “Shot of Love” (the Dylan cover),“I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier, Mama” (Lennon cover), and “I’m Not Listening”. I’m digging them the most right now, and I’d love to hear what you think!
When you buy it, c’mon back and tell me. 😉