Get ’em while they’re hot! Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s new album, Lickety Split, hits the shelves today!

Today, Robert Randolph & The Family Band have a new album out, called Lickety Split. I remember the very first time I heard Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s music. It was June 20, 2004, my 32nd birthday. My husband, Bill, had surprised me with tickets to see Eric Clapton at Washington DC’s MCI Center. We had nosebleed seats. But then, the opening band came out and freakin’ blew our doors off.

I had never heard of Robert Randolph & The Family Band before that night, but they quickly indoctrinated me. I liked their part of the show much better than Clapton’s. When I think of that night, I think of Robert Randolph’s virtuoso pedal steel guitar playing, not Eric Clapton’s much more sedate performance. I remember how Randolph’s bandmates played round robin with their instruments, taking over for each other. These guys are saturated with musical talent and just enthralled me with their performance. I went home and ordered the two CDs they had out at the time, Live At The Wetlands and Unclassified.

Years later, when I joined Facebook, I “liked” Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s page. I get regular updates about the band and– I’m ashamed to say it– that’s how I found out that they have a new album coming out today. Lickety Split has just hit the shelves and I downloaded my copy first thing this morning. I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to my thoughts on the new album as I listen to it for the very first time. So here goes… or should I say, “Hear goes?”.

First impressions of Lickety Split…

Cover of Robert Randolph & The Family Band's latest album, Lickety Split.

Cover of Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s latest album, Lickety Split.

This album kicks off with the high energy track, “Amped Up”. With a discordant crash of Robert Randolph’s pedal steel, the song cranks up. My first thought is that it reminds me a lot of a mix of 2006’s “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” from the album, Colorblind. The hook is similar and so is the tempo. This song is about getting up and getting going, which makes it a great song for first thing in the morning… maybe after your first cup of coffee? I think it’s obvious Robert Randolph meant for this to be a morning song. At the end, he says “Now have a good day!”

The energy continues with “Born Again”, a song that instantly makes me think it was inspired by Robert Randolph’s spiritual background. The lyrics are vague enough that they could be romantic, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is about God. I love it. It has backing vocals that are reminiscent of a church choir in a holy roller church. The rhythm is infectious, while the melody is joyful… and joyfully played. The lyrics borrow a bit from well known spirituals. You’ll hear a little “Amazing Grace” in there, but in a way you’ve never heard it before. This song gets my blood pumping.

I’m somewhat less impressed by “New Orleans”, which is a slower song sung by Lanesha Randolph. It’s kind of a pretty ballad about New Orleans, but the melody and lyrics are somewhat pedestrian compared to the energy of the first two songs. It’s not a bad song at all, but it doesn’t move me like “Amped Up” and “Born Again” do. On the other hand, maybe listeners want a short breather after those first two numbers. Lanesha Randolph has a lovely voice… it kind of reminds me of Jennifer Hudson’s. The end of this song is kind of cool, whimsical and creative.

The next song is “Take the Party”. It features Trombone Shorty and is yet another high energy track. I dare you to sit still during this song, which has an infectious tempo. As I listen to this song this morning, I’m bobbing my head, tapping my toes, and really digging the trombone. “Take the party wherever you go”… It’s not a bad way to live.

You’ll continue the festivities with the next song, “Brand New Wayo”, which features Carlos Santana. What a cool song! It has sort of a retro disco/funk feel to it. On this song, Robert Randolph shows off his awesome bandleading skills as he lets his bandmates shine, then joins in himself. “Brand New Wayo” makes me wish I were more into exercise. I might have to take up zumba now, because this song makes me want to MOVE. It sort of channels “Pick Up The Pieces” by Average White Band.

The energy doesn’t decrease with “Lickety Split”, though instead of disco and funk, I hear rockabilly. Even the lyrics suggest rockabilly, as Randolph sings about family life. As I listen to this, I’m dumbfounded by the breadth of Randolph’s repertoire. This is a man who loves music and is influenced by everything. The lyrics are uplifting and positive; they promote love, which is a great message for the first thing in the morning.

Carlos Santana also guests on the next song, “Blacky Joe”. The tempo comes down a few notches and we get to hear some fine percussion, bass guitar, pedal steel, and Santana’s unmistakable guitar. I’m not sure who inspired this song, but the lyrics suggest a devoted friend of the band who’s no longer around and is missed. At the end, Carlos Santana contributes some wicked guitar.

Next comes a fun cover of “Love Rollercoaster”, a song that was made famous by the Ohio Players in 1975. I like how Robert Randolph & The Family Band played this, though it really doesn’t sound that different than the original. It’s in the same key and basically has the same funky mood, just dressed up a bit with pedal steel.

“All American” has more of a straightforward rock sound, with a savage beat and stabbing guitar riffs. At the bridge, the beat turns into a thumping heartbeat. The lyrics are kind of simple, extolling the virtues of an American girl. I like the melody better than the words.

The next song is “Get Ready”, again very funky, high energy, and letting Randolph show everybody how much of a genius he is with the pedal steel guitar. The band chants “Get Ready” repeatedly, while Randolph jams, making his instrument squeal and shriek, then bubble over with music.

“Welcome Home” is another ballad, slowing down the tempo just a bit with a pretty melody and nice piano accents. Randolph welcomes back the troops with this surreal anti war song. I appreciate Randolph’s sentiments. He remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who made it back alive, but are no longer mentally or physically whole. As the wife of a service member, I like that Randolph’s attitude is one of gratitude, rather than shaming. This song is very profound in its own way, from the challenging melody to the lyrics.

The last song is a cover of “Good Lovin'”, which was a song made popular by The Young Rascals. This is done in the same key as the original, but Randolph has spiced it up with some modern embellishments. He had a lot of fun with this and it ends the album on a good note.

My Thoughts

This was my very first listen to Lickety Split, so today’s post is based entirely on my first impressions of this brand new album. I think it’s damn good. There are a few songs that are really awesome, while a few others aren’t as impressive to me, but are still quite solid. For instance, I wish Robert Randolph & The Family Band had done a little more with their tale on “Love Rollercoaster”. On the other hand, what they did do is definitely not bad at all. I will have to listen to this a few more times, but at this point I think it’s a keeper and well worth the $10 I paid for it.