Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Waxed - Record Review from Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

The Word

Self-Titled (Ropeadope / Atlantic)

I got be a fly on the wall last summer when Robert Randolph, the secret weapon of this would-be supergroup, sat in with a half-dozen country and sacred steel guitarists at an impromptu jam session held in a Nashville warehouse. Then just 22, the New Jersey native wasn’t the most accomplished steel player in the room; that distinction went to his hero Chuck Campbell, a sacred steel guitarist of staggering emotional and technical reach.

Nevertheless, coaxing run after unearthly, rapid-fire run from the pedals and strings of his guitar — and not just with his feet and fingers, but with his chin and tongue as well — Randolph was already channeling the pyrotechnics of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. There’ll be no stopping him once he discovers noise avatar Sonny Sharrock and starts raining down beauty and chaos from on high.

Not that you’d suspect as much from most of this noodlefest with keyboardist John Medeski (of the improv troupe Medeski, Martin & Wood) and the bluesy North Mississippi All Stars. The Word isn’t a bad album, mind you, just underwhelming; none of it is as inspired as any of the sacred steel recordings on Arhoolie. Fully half of what’s here smacks of warmed-over Allman Brothers, at times veering perilously close to dreaded jam-band territory. And it certainly doesn’t help that this clutch of hymns is divorced from its context in black Pentecostal worship, where musicians and members of the congregation feed off each other’s energy while abandoning themselves to the pull of the spirit. The All Stars’ rhythm section is also a problem; by turns tentative and lumbering, it rarely locks into a groove that might take Randolph or slide guitarist Luther Dickinson, much less the rest of us, higher.

That said, the vamping funk of “Waiting On My Wings” — equal parts Electric Ladyland and the Mahavishnu Orchestra — will almost take you there, with Medeski stepping out front some and Randolph and Dickinson flying circles around each other like Dickey and Duane at the Fillmore East. The brooding, dirty-toned “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning” likewise lives up to its title, while the gentle lyricism and quiet dignity of “I Shall Not Be Moved” would have put a smile on Mississippi John Hurt’s radiant face.

The rest of the time, though, Randolph sounds like he’s just itching to fly away, if only he could get a lift from the rest of his crew. And maybe he will next time, since there are already rumors of a follow-up record. But for now, the best thing the young lion could do would be to take his earthbound brothers to church.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • Exclusive Premiere of Cowboy Jack Clement's "Let the Chips Fall"
    Cowboy Jack was one of the most beloved country and Americana artists of his generation. For proof, just look at the list of artists who showed up to lend a hand on his final album: John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Bobby Bare, Duane Eddy, T Bone Burnett, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Rodney Crowell, Buddy Miller, Dan Auerbach, Leon Russell, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlin […]
  • Easy Ed's Sideshow of Solos, Duets and Ensembles: Session #42
    Welcome to the 42nd installment of random thoughts, trivial facts. occasional fiction, poetry, haikus, photos, artwork, stories of fleeting fame and dastardly deeds, and videos or tunes that may have caught my attention or fancy of late. As you can see by the picture at the side, I've got dessert on my mind, and in particular...pies. The Oxford Companio […]
  • St. Vincent in Concert: As Performance Artist, Annie Clark Shows Her True Colors
    One of the most intriguing aspects about attending a St. Vincent concert is the anticipation. What will Annie Clark do next? That’s what one high-strung son of someone was thinking for the rest of us while pressed up against the barrier leaving just enough breathing room between entertainer and her target audience as March wound down while that inevitable da […]
  • Lone Justice - This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983 (Album Review)
    Much bootlegged, these landmark early studio recordings by Lone Justice are finally given an official release. By December 1983, performing their swashbuckling fusion of punk and country, Lone Justice were consistently playing ‘sold out’ sets in L.A.’s numerous rock clubs. That month Maria McKee (lead vocal, guitar), Ryan Hedgecock (guitar, backing vocal), M […]
  • Stace England & The Salt Kings – America, Illinois (Album Review)
    Let me tell you a little about Stace England.  Back in 2005 or so, Stace and the boys put out an album titled Greetings From Cairo, Illinois which music critic Greil Marcus put in his Top Ten albums of that year.  They followed it up in 2007 with Salt Sex Slaves, another historically apt musical look behind the facade of reality-as-told.  (Here is part of th […]
  • Young Brits Climbing the Ladder: Blair Dunlop and Ward Thomas
    Ah, sweet  youth. Time for an update on Blair Dunlop and Ward Thomas, two young British music talents that  I have mentioned before on these pages and who are worth keeping an eye on. Dunlop turned 22 in February. He is a folk-country singer with an impressive musical pedigree (his dad is British folk icon Ashley Hutchings) and who, I have just learned playe […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter