Style: Bluesy rock/gospel; imagine a cross between Ben Harper, Jimi Hendrix, and the Blind Boys of Alabama
Top tracks: "Shot of Love," "I Still Belong to Jesus," "Dry Bones"
They seem like the ultimate odd couple: One's a renowned producer whose stock in trade is a studious recreation of analog Americana, and who, for the past several years, has only had one speed—sloooooow; the other, a guitar virtuoso in the Sacred Steel tradition, whose reputation is built on smoldering live shows and white-hot energy. The pairing of T-Bone Burnett and Robert Randolph probably shouldn't work, but give them credit for this much at least: The two men bring out the best in each other.
Remember that, before he got stuck in the sleepy, country-noir vein of Raising Sand, his Grammy-winning effort with Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, Burnett's greatest success was arguably as a curator, an archivist whose knowledge of American music lore was virtually encyclopedic. For his album with Randolph—We Walk This Road, some two years in the making—Burnett hit the vinyl and came up with a carefully-selected set of golden oldies—a lot of vintage gospel tunes, but also more contemporary cuts from Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Prince.
From there, he basically left it up to Randolph. Smart move: With his Family Band in tow, the steel ace applies molten-lava guitar work to gospel standards, brings a touch of something funky to everything he touches, and pulls rock and funk songs squarely into the realm of gospel, solely through his spiritual fervor and rafter-raising energy. Simply put: This thing is hot.
Every note of it is drenched in gospel, and some of the most moving moments come where you least expect them. Randolph does up Dylan's ...1
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