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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Mr. ROBERT RANDOLPH (Singer): Just play a little song that is a traditional church song. It's a hymn.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: In 2001, we met Robert Randolph where it all began - playing his pedal steel guitar in the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey. At the time, he was also setting rock clubs on fire with his musical pyrotechnics, influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. RANDOLPH: (Singing) You know them...

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: On a new CD coming out Tuesday, short segs of old-timey music weed in and out of Robert Randolph's take on everyone from Prince to Bob Dylan and from John Lennon to Blind Willie Johnson. There are also original tunes that tie together Randolph's love of rock, blues and gospel.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. RANDOLPH: (Singing) You know them bones, dry bones, gonna keep jumping around you. You know them bones, dry bones, gonna keep jumping around you. You know them bones, dry bones...

HANSEN: "We Walk This Road" is the title of that new CD. And in front of a live audience here in NPR's Studio 4A, we'd like to welcome Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

(Soundbite of applause)

HANSEN: Robert Randolph, it's, first of all, really good to see you again. And congratulations on all your success in the past nine years. About the new album, though, it's produced by an old friend of WEEKEND EDITION Sunday - T-Bone Burnett. He's the guy that was behind the - well, what he hasn't been behind, I mean, really? The CD by Robert Plant and Allison Krause. He won an Oscar this year for his theme to "Crazy Heart." Tell us, how did he help you shape this project?

Mr. RANDOLPH: Well, T-Bone helped to shape this project by helping us find all these old gospel, old rock, old early blues tunes. And by him being such a musical historian, just talking to him and getting his overall knowledge of where the history of music started from, just so we can have a starting point and to gain a lot of inspiration from. So, thats where his real knowledge came into play in this project.

HANSEN: We're going to hear some of that music now. But before we do, introduce us to the Family Band.

Mr. RANDOLPH: We've got Shmeeans over here on guitar. Back here in drums, my cousin Marcus. Back here on the organ, we got my buddy Brett here. Back right of me, I got my little sister back here. She's recording, singing all over this record. Over here, I got my other cousin Danyel on the bass.

HANSEN: Thus the Family Band. You're going to do a tune called "Traveling Shoes" for us?

Mr. RANDOLPH: We're going to an old tune called "Traveling Shoes." Actually, we used to sing this type of song in church, too. So, T-Bone helped us figure out old sort of rock and roll church way, mixed with all that good hot sauce in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Traveling Shoes")

ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND: (Singing) We walk this road. We're on our way. But when we get there, no one can stay. No one can stay. No one can stay. (unintelligible) comes riding by the lion's door. (unintelligible) lion, you're ready to go. No, no, no, no, no. Because I ain't got on my traveling shoes and I ain't ready, say no, no, no, no, no. 'Cause I ain't got on my traveling shoes.

There comes riding by the (unintelligible) door. (unintelligible) you're ready to go. No, no, no, no, no, no. Because I ain't got on my traveling shoes and I ain't ready, singing no, no, no, no, no, no. Because I ain't got on my traveling shoes.

We walk this road. We're on our way. When we get there, no one can stay. There comes riding by the banker's door. (unintelligible) before you're ready to go. No, no, no, no, no, no. Because I ain't got on my traveling shoes and I ain't ready. Singing no, no, no, no, no, no. Because I ain't got on my traveling shoes.

(Soundbite of applause)

HANSEN: Robert Randolph and the Family Band in Studio 4A. That's "Traveling Shoes" from the new CD, "We Walk this Road."

It's interesting for you going back and hearing some of this music. I don't know if everybody knows you were recently on screen in the film "Who Do You Love?" And it was about the story of Chess Records and you played the part of Bo Diddley. Did you know who Bo Diddley was before you got the part?

Mr. RANDOLPH: You know, of course. I mean, I had knew who Bo Diddley was and I had just never researched him like I had a chance to do in this film, "Who Do You Love?" And it was such a great - it was another opportunity to get back and dive in to see how special those guys were.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. RANDOLPH: You know, from Bo, Etta James and all, you know...

HANSEN: Sure.

Mr. RANDOLPH: ...everybody just to see. You know, I mean, Clapton had told me, Clapton told me, you better play Bo Diddley great because he was the guy that we all listened to. That's where we got our stuff from.

HANSEN: Robert Randolph, I mean, when I met you in 2001, you were really just getting started, you know, young, and, you know, now you've been lifted up, had great success. Has it changed you or how do you think success has changed you?

Mr. RANDOLPH: I don't think it's changed us at all. You know, we're all still the same folks. We still go back home, our parents yell at us and all that kind of stuff - take out the trash, mow the lawn. It's been good though to travel around the world and go on tour with so many different great artists. And now to have become friends with and appreciated by all the big artists - Elton John, Eric Clapton, Santana, Dave Matthews Band, so forth, Leon Russell, who's also on this record who came in and Robbie Robertson, who sat in the studio a couple of days. To be appreciated by all those pioneers tells us that we probably may go somewhere.

HANSEN: You may be doing something right, you think maybe?

Mr. RANDOLPH: Yeah.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. RANDOLPH: I guess so.

HANSEN: You're going to do a tune for us. It's called "Don't Change."

Mr. RANDOLPH: This was a song that we all had listened to. There's a guy Will Gray who had come into the session to hang with us and write some wonderful tunes. And he had an acoustic demo of it and we figured out that maybe we should grunge it up a little bit, get Danyel's wonderful vocals on there. So, this is "Things Just Don't Change."

(Soundbite of song, "Things Just Don't Change")

ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND: (Singing) (unintelligible) was a (unintelligible). 'Cause sticks and stones, I can't remember when, I felt this lost underneath my skin. And I can't (unintelligible) no more. I feel (unintelligible) through my veins, (unintelligible) it turned to flames. And (unintelligible). And I just can't take it no more. This is how it's always been. (unintelligible).

(Singing) Every man, every woman and child, try their (unintelligible) and live it for a while. They pushed and pulled trying to make it straight. (unintelligible). Every man, every woman and child, tried their hand and (unintelligible) for a while. They pushed and pulled trying to make it (unintelligible). Can't believe what they saw (unintelligible).

Just a lonely night, trying to make it to, ain't got no might to make it (unintelligible). It's a firefight to keep (unintelligible). Well, I can't take it no more. (unintelligible). This is how it's always been. (unintelligible). Things just don't change.

(Soundbite of applause)

HANSEN: "Don't Change," played by Robert Randolph and the Family Band here in Studio 4A. You did change. You changed instruments for this one.

Mr. RANDOLPH: Yeah, I got on this cool Asher guitar. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

HANSEN: It does. It's really deep. Yeah.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Nice.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: But I can't neglect Danyel Morgan's vocals on that tune. You have to give him his props for that. Cool. Today's Father's Day.

Mr. RANDOLPH: Happy Father's Day, everybody out there.

HANSEN: Robert, we had the pleasure of meeting your own dad back in 2001 when we met, and he was a deacon at the House of God Church. He's still around, doing well I hear.

Mr. RANDOLPH: Yeah, yeah, he's doing well.

HANSEN: Yeah. So, what do you credit him for in terms of influence, musical and spiritually?

Mr. RANDOLPH: Spiritually and musical, I appreciate my father making us go to church when we were younger. To be rooted and grounded and know that no matter what you're going through in life, God is always there to see you through, the trials, the tribulations, the hard times and the good times. And I appreciate him for buying me my first lap steel guitar when I was 16 years old.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. RANDOLPH: So, there you go.

HANSEN: But, you know, you've got this tune you're going to play - "I Still Belong to Jesus."

Mr. RANDOLPH: Yeah.

HANSEN: It's almost like saying, look, I haven't really strayed too far, dad.

Mr. RANDOLPH: Yeah, yeah. I mean, really, that's what this song really speaks to a lot of people who may think they're a little lost, you know. Or sometimes people say, oh, whether you're Christian, are you this, are you that? I mean, we're all children of God and that's what we still belong to Jesus at the end of the day.

HANSEN: All right. Before we hear the song, let me say thanks to all of you for coming in. Drummer Marcus Randolph, singer Lenesha Randolph, Danyel Morgan on bass, guitarist Adam Smirnoff, Brett Hass on keyboards, vocal and guitar - I've been watching you. And thank you very much, Robert Randolph.

Mr. RANDOLPH: Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of song, "I Still Belong to Jesus")

ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND: (Singing) Someone else woke up today and saw us all in a brand new way, but I still had to turn my head, I still belong. Something (unintelligible). I was (unintelligible) and I don't know. You say it doesn't make much sense. Still I know was nowhere for me. My life has changing and who's to say, how your love will send my way. When the night is long and dark, all you need is (unintelligible).

I still belong. Even though I turn my back. I still belong. I still belong to Jesus. The singer points and preacher screams. He (unintelligible) in his dreams. But Jesus didn't stop no one. He reached his hands out to the (unintelligible). The maim will walk and the blind will see. They kept my people. You'll take care of me. So, folks say he's the fatherless child, but he brought more love than (unintelligible).

I still belong, though I turn my back. I still belong. I still belong to Jesus. I still belong to Jesus.

HANSEN: That's Robert Randolph and the Family Band performing in front of an audience in NPR's Studio 4A. Their CD, "We Walk This Road," comes out this Tuesday.

You can hear full performances from our session at our website, NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Happy Father's Day everyone. I'm Liane Hansen.

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