Robert Randolph was worn out.
After being on the road upward of 280 days per year, the band was starting to lose sight of how all of this was fun. Their passion was dwindling, and each tour stop started to feel more like a mechanical process than an eruption of energy. Robert Randolph & The Family Band needed a change, and they found it with a new record label.
“Being around the new record label, Blue Note Records — the president of the label there, Don Was, he’s a famous rock ’n’ roll producer, a great music mind,” Randolph said. “He’s worked with all of the great bands, artists; talking with him and working with him has allowed us to get back to sort of what we do, which is creating this energetic music that’s upbeat, positive, a really rock ’n’ roll, gospel vibe, then getting back to having fun.”
Randolph said that it was revitalizing for the band members to get back into the studio, recording and collaborating and doing all of the things that they couldn’t do at their old label. Creating the new album, “Lickety Split,” which will be released Tuesday, was a new beginning for the band.
“I’m excited about all of it,” Randolph said. “I’m excited about how we had a chance to just record so much new material and put it all together. You have a song like ‘Take the Party’ with Trombone Shorty. The song ‘Lickety Split,’ which is this cool kind of spiritual song but it’s a rock ’n’ roll tune at the same time. It just makes you want to dance and sing along with it.
“It’s country/gospel/rock ’n’ roll, and then to be able to record with Carlos Santana on this record — ‘Blacky Joe,’ ‘Brand New Wayo’ — very upbeat, funky rock with chants. … When we play that song live, it’ll get the crowd going all the time; it features different members of the band. It’s really cool.”
Recording with mentors
The new label also allowed Randolph to delve into an entirely different project, an album titled “Robert Randolph Presents the Slide Brothers.”
“That’s a record I recorded with all my mentors, the guys who are like my uncles and grandfathers,” Randolph said. “I’ve grown up learning from those guys, and they’ve been teaching me how to play all throughout the years.”
A lot of people don’t understand the story of where he came from and how he got started playing lap steel, Randolph said.
“We had a chance to record this record, with great blues classics, great original songs,” Randolph said. “It was great to be in the studio with them for the first time. A lot of those songs you have four different pedal steels going at the same time, so it’s really been a lot of fun.”
The Slide Brothers are now out on tour, spreading the gospel of pedal steel and blues.
“I think they are in Canada as we speak,” Randolph said. “Some of them are 70 or 65, and it’s cool for them to be out there and touring around and have made such a really good record that people love.”
Back on the road
Robert Randolph & The Family Band are fired up about getting back on the road, playing songs and meeting fans and talking to them about what’s new.
“We’ve been around, but we haven’t really been around, and we’ve still kind of always been new,” Randolph said. “It’s a good thing that a lot of people really don’t know who Robert Randolph & The Family Band really is; it’s great to now be able to sit back and look at everything, to continue going back to the beginning.”
With all of the new projects and fresh music, Randolph said it feels like the beginning all over again, which is fun.“It’s been a really great ride,” he said. “I’m excited about this summer and here in the fall and next summer. We’ve been touring a lot internationally, seeing how it touches people in Australia, Japan, Europe — we’re excited to get back to the states and travel around and have a blast.”
The band will make a couple of stops in the High Country, including a show Sunday at The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco.
“I love to come up to the mountains this time of year in the summertime,” Randolph said.
“It’s good to play these smaller venues. We’ve got that feeling of being at the beginning again. When you’re playing the Belly Up and those places, it’s small, it’s intimate, it gets loud in there an sweaty and hot. I can’t wait to do it. We’ve been playing a lot of big outdoor festivals — big, outdoor places — so it’s good to play the smaller, more intimate, good-sounding rooms.”