January 30th, 2006
John Benson, Cleveland
There are plenty of people giving steel guitar virtuoso Robert Randolph ideas for his Family Band's next album, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2003's "Unclassified." But the Orange, N.J., native says it's a far cry from having too many cooks in the kitchen on the effort, due in May via Warner Bros.
"It's great getting ideas from other artists, whether it's somebody like Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews or Eric Clapton," Randolph tells Billboard.com. "These are all guys -- and producers too, like Rick Rubin -- who have been coming to the table saying, 'I have these ideas.' So, I like to hear people out and hear what they've got."
The upcoming as-yet-untitled project is shaping up to be the guitar record of 2006, boasting a who's-who list of guests like Matthews and Clapton. Santana doesn't appear on the new album, as label issues couldn't be ironed out. Still, the San Francisco native did fly down to Randolph's Los Angeles recording studio just to "hang out, play guitar and talk over some stuff."
Randolph has been recording on and off for a year, interpolating studio time with touring, which has allowed him to road test many of the new tracks, including "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That," "The Thrill of It" and "Deliver Me." Matthews contributes on "Love is the Only Way," while a cover of the Doobie Brothers' "Jesus is Just Alright" features Clapton.
"We're going to give people something totally different than what's really out there now," Randolph says. "Because a lot of people today figure when they write songs, it just has to be pinpointed whether you want to talk about having sex, hatred, being a thug and all of that kind of stuff. And we just pinpoint great songs that are just sticking and will last forever. If you ever listen to an old Zeppelin record, those guys are just writing songs. They don't really care if it's going to fit in rock, blues or R&B. That's what we're trying to do."
For the next year, Randolph expects to be touring, including a month-long jaunt beginning Feb. 10 in Kansas City and a possible opening slot on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' summer outing. Says Randolph, "After April, we'll be gone forever."