January 1, 2008

PEDAL SONG:

The Word's extended jams soar beyond gospel classics (Sam Adams, 1/01/08, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Word's music draws on the sounds of Southern worship, but the band itself worships at the altar of jam. Stretching two sets over more than three hours, the five-piece group touched on a handful of gospel classics, but its sound has more to do with the Allman Brothers than Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

When the Word's other members picked Robert Randolph to play pedal steel on their self-titled 2000 album, he was virtually unknown outside the devotional circuit. Seven years later, he is arguably its marquee player, acknowledged as a contemporary master of his chosen instrument. Seated at the front of the Electric Factory's stage Friday, he dazzled the crowd with his technique. There were few words sung and even fewer spoken, but Randolph's pedal was the voice the songs needed, swooping and soaring with the expressiveness of an opera singer.

Joining him for a four-date mini-tour were keyboardist John Medeski of jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood, and the North Mississippi All-Stars: brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, and bassist Chris Chew. The five have reunited only a few times since 2001, but their rapport hardly seems to have dimmed. At one point, Randolph moved to the drum kit so that Cody Dickinson could take up an electrified washboard. Playing energetically before he had quite found his seat, Randolph let a drumstick fly out of his hand. Moments later, Luther Dickinson was using it to tap at his guitar strings.


Posted by Orrin Judd at January 1, 2008 9:50 AM
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