In 2001, The Word set the jamband world on fire and introduced the immense talent of Robert Randolph to the masses. Fourteen years later, the group is scheduled to release Soul Food, their second full-length studio album. Listen to the band's newest single, "When I See Blood" above.
The band features Robert Randolph on pedal steel guitar, John Medeski on keyboard, and the North Mississippi All-Stars (Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, and Chris Chew) on guitar, drums, and bass respectively.
On that first album, there were no vocals whatsoever. The Word was an album with no words on it, but definitely not lacking in expressiveness. All five members of the group are able to tell stories and evoke emotions with their instruments. On this track, Ruthie Foster provides vocals.
The first album consisted of mostly gospel standards, but the band wrote "Waiting On My Wings" while waiting for a food delivery. On this new album, they've written more original material, but they continue to reinterpret their gospel favorites. Robert Randolph and Luther Dickinson told Rolling Stone:
Randolph: Both me and Chris Chew both know all the gospel stuff. You got black gospel and you got white gospel. The version of "When I See the Blood," Chris Chew knows it because it came from the version of Bishop G. Patterson, who's right there in Memphis and was for years was the head apostle of the Church of God Christ Church. He was familiar with the Clark Sisters song, "You Brought the Sunshine," which is one of the most famous black gospel songs of all time. The Clark Sisters influenced everybody from Beyoncé to every Eighties and Nineties women's group. And Luther and Cody are familiar with the rootsy, bluesy gospel stuff, which adds a twist to anything I would do.
Dickinson: My grandmother played piano in Baptist church, which is where I learned all the hymns. And we learned all the blues gospel from all the guitar players who would do gospel songs in a gut-bucket Mississippi style. But when Boo heard us do "Sunshine," he was like, "Pops cut that!" They cut that at Royal and we didn't even know it. Boo was freakin' out. Dee remembered when they did the original.
Dickinson: On our last day at Royal, Willie Mitchell's daughters cooked us this outrageously delicious soul food spread. We were hootin' and hollerin' because the food was so good and the ladies were so funny. I couldn't imagine playing afterward, but Robert was like, "Alright, we gotta go play behind this meal right now." So we sat down and did the two "Soul Food" jams. Once again, Robert just hit that D-flat chord and we went off into a 15-minute improv.
Randolph: Every Word song is like a soup. You know how on cold days you get the biggest pot you can find and just start throwing in ingredients? And once it's all done simmering, two or three hours later, you taste it and go, "OK, that's soup for the day!" I don't know what our music's called, but it's soup.
Source: Vanguard Records SoundCloud