Listening to Robert Randolph's new album We Walk This Road (out everywhere June 21st), most listeners would assume that the acclaimed steel guitar player had been steeped in traditional blues, gospel, and soul sounds from the earliest days. But surprisingly (especially for a musician renowned for his instinctive power and feeling), Randolph turns out to have come to a lot of this music later in life, in some cases under the guidance and tutelage of famed producer and walking Music History Book, T Bone Burnett. Over the two years recording the album, the crew listened to ancient numbers from the 20s and 30s, music in the public domain and the collective memory of roots, until something hopped out and revealed itself to be pre-ordained. The process was simple: bring volumes upon volumes of tunes into the studio and just dig. According to Randolph, "I was only allowed to listen to modern Christian and gospel music growing up, so there was so much I didn't know about. My mind is expanded now. The record is finished and I still feel as if I'm not done. I've spent over $5,000 on iTunes in the past eighteen months just catching up."
Which basically proves the central premise of We Walk This Road: there's a thread that runs through the past century of roots, blues, soul, gospel, you name it, that any music fan has an innate understanding of. That's the gift of discovery that Randolph shares with his listeners across the entirety of We Walk This Road. In essence, the album is a highly personal, walking tour through the past one hundred years of African-American music, as experienced and understood by Robert Randolph, his band and the handful of friends lucky enough to join him. Like Leon Russell, who played piano on the album-closing "Salvation," or Ben Harper, who played six string and sang on Blind Willie Johnson's "If I Had My Way." Throughout the album, Randolph's trademark "Sacred Steel" guitar shines on tracks from traditionals to versions of songs from Bob Dylan ("Shot of Love"), John Lennon ("I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama"), and even Prince ("Walk Don't Walk").
Ultimately, We Walk This Road is a record that hopes to open doors, in much the same way doors have been opened for Randolph. In keeping with that theme, all summer long, the band will be blowing the doors off of venues and festivals alike to showcase the uplifting spirit of We Walk This Road, a truly special album that gives a hearty thank you to all those who walk it with them.