Sunday, August 1, 2010

Robert Randolph And The Family Band: If I Had My Way

It’s a rainy Sunday morning and I need something besides a huge mug of coffee to get me going, so I am going to suggest a little Sacred Steel with Robert Randolph and the Family Band. If you haven’t heard of the band or genre of music, put on your seat belt as it will get you moving. If you attend a church with staid worship practices, this music may be a little too much for a Sunday morning – so listen with extreme caution to “If I Had My Way.”

Randolph's version of this old song is somewhat confusing as the song was originally written about Samson and this is alluded to in the verse about Delilah. Randolph's story line changes to Daniel in the lion's den. Delilah and Daniel do not fit together and it was Samson and not Daniel who tore the building down. Besides the obvious lyrical inaccuracies, the song has a good meaning and it moves.

Sacred Steel developed as a musical tradition in a African American Pentecostal denomination that probably holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest church name. For practicality sake, the name is usually shortened to the “House of God Church”; however, the official name of the denomination is The House of God Which Is the Church of the Living God the Pillar and Ground of the Truth Without Controversy. I can see where “House of God” might be an acceptable substitute.

Tradition has it that in the 1930s a “House of God” minister brought a lap steel guitar to a service to use to accompany the song service as the congregation could not afford an organ. The use of the lap steel spread like wildfire to like minded congregations. In the 1940s, the lap steel was replaced by some musicians with the console steel guitar and finally the pedal steel guitar as played by Robert Randolph. It is not unusual to find House of God Sacred Steel players that use any of the three versions of the steel guitar.

Probably the best known of the Sacred Steel players is Robert Randolph from Orange, NJ. Not only does the Family Band perform gospel music, the showcase a wide variety of unrelated musical styles. It makes me want to get one of my steels out to play this morning. Add a little distortion and we can get everyone moving.

Alternate Version

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