Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Robert Randolph "If I Had My Way"

I cast a critical eye on the new Robert Randolph record.

I had seen him open for Susan Tedeschi many years back, and was completely blown away by his abilities on the sacred steel. His incendiary live performance had but one weak spot that night---some pretty sketchy vocals by the band.

Studio recordings have a way of making a forgivable live weakness, a real obstacle toward success.

Their first major label record was a modest accomplishment. It certainly didn't fully capture what this band could do, but it did ring of promise. I had high hopes for the second record.

Maybe they were too high. Or maybe the record was exactly what I thought it was--a shattershot attempt to try to gloss over the weakness, with a gaggle of ringer talent brought on board to co-write songs, commercialize the production and draw attention with celebrity guest shots.

It may have had some commercial success, but I thought it was a complete mess.

So where were they gonna go from here?

Well, good thought to hire T Bone Burnett as a producer. I can't think of a man out there who can bring more authentic earth and roots to a commercially viable album.

But the first single arrived and I thought . . . a cover tune huh? Of an old gospel song? Okay, so no attempts to write songs that they could sing and be convincing on?

A friend of mine pointed out what a great idea it was to pull out this song as a cover in 2010---It was a great idea Patty Griffin did it this winter on her album "Downtown Church."

I listened to it and I liked it but I had all these negative, critical things to say about it.

And then I stopped being a critic. I stopped thinking about what it should be and what I wanted it to be and what it could someday be. And I enjoyed it.

Sometimes you've got to let the critic take a break, because otherwise, he sucks the fun out of listening to music.

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