Robert Randolph sure knows how to play the pedal-steel guitar. But what makes him unique is that he’s not playing it in a country band, the instrument’s traditional home. He’s playing it in the context of the blues.
This time out, Robert Randolph and His Family Band was less ‘family’ and more studio or road type musicians than in his past appearances in the Capital District. Anyone remember his blistering performance with more family members in the ranks a few years back on the Empire State Plaza? Or even further back at the now long gone Saratoga Winners?
Not that the music at The Egg wasn’t great, but some thought that it was less than inspired on this particular night. Maybe Randolph and family were a little tired from touring in support of their new album, “We Walk This Road,” produced by famed studio music-magician T Bone Burnett.
What blew a lot of people’s minds was the band that came on right before Randolph. The Hill Country Revue rocked The Egg on its foundation that night, detonating an explosive, two-guitar attack. Their Mississippi boogie and southern blues-rock mix left many in the audience howling for more.
Since the North Mississippi All-Stars took a break from recording and touring, Cody Dickinson started the Hill Country Revue, while his brother Luther took the guitar chair in the Black Crowes aggregation. (Read our review of the Black Crowes’ show at the Palace Theatre last month.) Cody, the NMAS’s drummer and washboard player, has picked up the electric guitar to devastating effect. And in the context of the Hill Country Revue, his crunchy, boogie-filled rock style perfectly complements Kirk Smithhart’s screaming lead-guitar excursions.
Rounding out the HCR quintet were vocalist Daniel Robert Coburn, drummer Dave Mason and bassist Doc Samba – all super musicians who choodled through a set of the best Mississippi swamp-rock blues around. Check out their two superb albums, “Make A Move” and “Zebra Ranch,” to find out what the fuss is all about.
Opening band Tauk (short for Montauk) came up from Long Island to lay down a respectable set spotlighting their debut album, “Brokedown King.” Lead vocalist Alessandro Zanelli showed lots of promise and enthusiasm in their all too brief set. Keep an eye on these guys. They just might be headlining The Egg in just a few short years.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Early on, Randolph also reached back, using ‘The March’ to try to generate some dancing energy – not entirely successfully – but there was nothing wrong with the way ‘Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That’ charged up the crowd. Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ did the same, as did Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’ and bits of ‘Voodoo Chile’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ around encore time. Randolph played with such force that two strings popped in the rowdy ‘Hip Shake’ – a rare mishap among steel players. But he still had 12 left and a replacement emerged for the jolting ‘Dry Bones.’ He and (guitarist Adam) Smirnoff got more and more in sync as the show rolled and roared on, and they were devastating in ‘If I Had My Way,’ after they were shimmering together in ‘I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier.'”