Scheduled for a June 22 release, Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s We Walk This Road is more of a historical audio document than a group of newly recorded songs. First of all, it’s produced by T Bone Burnett, the man responsible for the overall sound of the 2007 Robert Plant / Alison Krauss album, Raising Sand, and who also helmed the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” motion picture soundtrack.
Randolph and Burnett got to work shortly after Raising Sand was completed by plowing through old blues and gospel compositions, some dating back almost 100 years and many in the public domain. Randolph described the songs as “the real roots of rock and roll, where everything else comes from.”
“When we found something we liked, we would either cover it or re-work it using our own words or melodies,” Randolph said. “Through this creation came an education. T Bone opened a lot of doors for me serving as a link between the past and the present. He knows how to take something from the past and bring it into the present while still allowing the artist to make it his own, in the same way that Hendrix took Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and made it belong to him.”
The album isn’t entirely filled with obscure compositions. Randolph also includes a reinterpretation of Prince’s “Walk Don’t Walk,” Bob Dylan’s “Shot Of Love” and John Lennon’s “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama.” Ben Harper appears on the disc, helping Randolph out on “If I Had My Way.” Leon Russell, who happened to be hanging out at the studio during the sessions, plays on “Salvation.”
It may come as a surprise that Randolph wasn’t familiar with the older material, if only because many guitarists often claim the early blues records were one of their inspirations for mastering the instrument. But Randolph’s early musical journey was somewhat hampered due to being allowed to listen to only modern Christian and gospel music while growing up.
“I’ve spent over $5,000 on iTunes in the past eighteen months just catching up,” Randolph said. “Before this record, I didn’t sift through music past the ‘70s. I didn’t know about Blind Willie Johnson, or Chess Records. I thank T Bone for being a tour guide into the deepest parts of my musical roots.
And you can see and hear Randolph and his band explore those roots live on stage this spring and summer as he takes We Walk This Road on the road. The guitarist and his band play the Congressional Blues Festival May 26 in Washington, D.C., perform in Columbia, Mo., at The Blue Note June 2 and hit the Wakarusa Festival in Ozark, Ark., June 3. Other stops include Dallas at Granada Theater June 5; Austin at Antone’s June 7; Tucson at Rialto Theatre June 9; San Francisco at The Fillmore June 11 and the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl June 13.
Other cities on Randolph’s touring calendar include Boise (June 17), Portland, Ore. (June 18), Vancouver (June 19) and Seattle (June 20). There’s also plenty more festival action on the itinerary, including Milwaukee’s Summerfest June 27, Taste Of Chicago July 4, Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest July 7, Thunder Bay Blues Festival July 9 and the Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, Ky., July 17.
Warner Bros. Records is taking pre-orders for a deluxe version of We Walk This Road containing the CD, two free MP3 downloads of “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That (Live)” and “If I Had My Way,” a numbered and signed lithograph and a branded pick tin. Just click here for the details. Of course, you can discover more information about the album and tour by clicking here.