If you, our listener/reader have ever wondered what I – the more negative of the two-headed dragon that is “Distant Stations”- consider amazing music, listen to this album. I’m tempted to tell you to stop whatever you’re doing and go patronize this musician; Buy his music, go to his shows, and find whatever official merch you can so that he will continue to produce more albums.
This group has been making music since 2002 when they came out of the gate with “Live in the Wetlands” and since then, they’ve been featured with some of the best artists in their genre (i.e. opening for Eric fucking Clapton, or being featured with Elton John and Leon Russel’s song “Theres No Tomorrow”, and even with Buddy Guy and Sly and The Family Stone). Oddly enough they’ve also made appearances with some pretty weird pairings outside of their genre as well (Ringo Starr, Ozzy Osborne, O.A.R, Santana, and Rob Thomas). Honestly, they’re just showing off at this point.
If that wasn’t enough for you, lets get in to 2017’s “Got Soul” which marks their fifth studio album. This album has it all, from powerful, sweeping Gospel and Blues to booty-shaking (technical term) Funk and Soul. Robert’s ridiculous technical skill on the lap steel guitar drives much of the melodies, while his vocals and lyrical prowess write the stories of music, loss, love, and family that hit you in the chest like a magic sledgehammer.
Coming from a very religious background, there is a lot of heavy Christian and faith-based imagery that punctuates the songs, particularly in the back half of the album, but one of the great things about the soul genre is the way it can make the faithless (such as myself) testify like a maniac. Unlike a lot of the born-again country music that calls itself “soul”, there is nothing inherently preachy hidden in the music, which can be a major turn off for a lot of people who are interested in this genre.
The call-and-response elements and celebration of life are the main focuses, which is partially what makes it so great to throw on, no matter your mood. It’s very reminiscent of Mo-Town in that respect, and you can definitely see the influences bleeding through in songs like “She Got Soul” and “I Thank You”. Honestly, you’ll likely find yourself downloading a little Stevie Wonder when you’re finished with this album; maybe a little Sly & The Family Stone.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I kinda hate loving albums like this one because I run out of things to say, but I never feel like I really expressed how much I believe you’re going to love this album. It’s a musical breath of fresh air, and it gives me a lot of hope to see bands like this doing well. In a world of overproduction, auto-tune, and drum machines, I feel like its important to shine a huge light on groups that are doing it on their own.
If I had to nit-pick something, I would say that the instrumental track is one of the most powerful on the album, and it ends up being the shortest. I’d really like to hear more compositional work from Robert Randolph, because its clear that he wants to give the other members a place to shine and that would be an easy and enjoyable way to do that.
The Verdict: Buy this album! Acheter cet album! Compar este disco! Album Je’! Prynwch albwm hwn! I’m uncertain what else you need to hear from me. Or what other languages you’d like me to run it through Google Translate. Its near perfect, and precisely what we need to be supporting these days.
The Score: 9/10