Robert Randolph is one of the rare artists who's been able to convince a sizable audience that the pedal steel guitar has a place outside country music. This is partly due to his over-the-top skills on the instrument, but just as importantly, Randolph and his Family Band have consistently shown their ability to launch a soul shakedown party of major proportions whenever they take the stage or set up in the studio. 2017's Got Soul, Randolph's fifth studio album, seems designed to capture the energy and power of Randolph and his band in full flight, and producer Matt Pierson has gone out of his way to give this material a big, rollicking sound that makes the most of the muscle and sweat of this music. While the tough, funky report of the rhythm section and the call of the organ provide the backbone of these songs, it's Randolph's pedal steel that gives Got Soul its unique sound, as the wailing peals of his instrument tear through the mix and lend this as much of a vocal presence as any instrumentalist can provide. While vintage soul and funk figures play a big role in these arrangements, Randolph's background in gospel is never entirely out of the picture, and there's a churchy passion at the heart of this music that adds plenty to the emotional resonance, especially on tracks like "Be the Change" and "Heaven's Calling".
Twelve years after they released their first Merle Haggard box, The Untamed Hawk, Bear Family delivered the sequel, Hag: The Studio Recordings 1969-1976. This picks up where The Untamed Hawk left off, which is more of a musical dividing point than it initially seems. If The Untamed Hawk caught Haggard as he was reaching full flight, Hag captures him in his prime, as every single he released reached the Country Top Ten – often capturing the number one slot – and as he sometimes crossed over into the pop Top 40. Hag was without a doubt the biggest star in country music but the remarkable thing about his reign at the top was that he never played it safe.
Recorded live in November, 1984 - an acoustical concert with no amplification except for a bass amplifier on For Macho - during the "Berliner Festspiele", at Berlin Philharmonic, Berlin. The clarinet was once one of the leading voices of jazz. During the Swing era clarinet players like Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw were Kings, but more recently the instrument has been all but forgotten in jazz circles. We should therefore thank World Saxophone Quartet member Hamiet Bluiett for his personal attempt at a revival with "The Clarinet Family." Recorded for the Black Saint label during a live performance in Berlin in November 1984, Bluiett trades in his trademark baritone sax for the alto clarinet, and joins forces with fellow clarinetists Don Byron, Dwight Andrews, Gene Ghee, John Purcell, J.D. Parran, Sir Kidd Jordan and even the great Buddy Collette on this eclectic tribute to the instrument.
As Snarky Puppy set up to record yet another live recording with the audience on the stage, special guests with an interest in supporting the project arrived. Lalah Hathaway, N'Dambi, Lucy Woodward, and Chantae Cann joined Malika Tirolien, Magda Giannikou, Shayna Steele and Tony Scherr in what was to become a legendary live session that celebrates the diversity and joy of live music. With the stunningly beautiful theater as a backdrop, the result is a masterpiece of Jazz, R&B, Gospel, and Blues music captured for the world to fully experience.
Sly and the Family Stone was an American band from San Francisco. Active from 1967 to 1983, the band was pivotal in the development of funk, soul, rock, and psychedelic music. In 2010, they were ranked 43rd in Rolling Stone list of "The 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time," and three of their albums are included in the Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Rhino Handmade collection compiles Back on the Right Track (1979) and Ain't But the One Way (1983) with five previously unissued recordings.
It's easy to imagine the phone calls, drummer Matt Wilson made, using his best imitation of Elwood from the 1980 Blues Brothers movie, "We're putting the band back together, we're on a mission from God." And like that, current members and alumni of the drummer's bands: the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts & Crafts, and Christmas Tree-O assembled to commune and revisit the music Wilson's late wife Felicia loved. This recording was Wilson's first since he lost his wife to leukemia in 2014. It certainly was fitting to perform the compositions she loved, and by the performers Felicia considered her extended family. Instead of a wake, the music is a celebration. One crafted in the true Wilson fashion, without written arrangements or rehearsals.