“I think I’m ’bout to break a string in here!” howls Robert Randolph on “Amped Up,” a gospel-rock belter from the steel-guitar master’s fourth studio album. It’s a quintessential Randolph moment: unhinged, dorky and Holy Spirit huge.
On 2010′s We Walk this Road, Randolph worked with T-Bone Burnett and an army of veteran studio aces, tracing the evolution of African American music — from slave chants to Hendrix to Prince, from Pentecostal gospel to hip-hop. Lickety Split is less academic and more visceral, reuniting the full Family Band (drummer Marcus Randolph, bassist Danyel Morgan, vocalist Lenesha Randolph, multi-instrumentalist Bret Haas) for 40 free-spirited minutes.
The band’s chops are dazzling, but Randolph himself steals every scene. His steel-guitar wails, it moans, it stings — on the slow-burning “Welcome Home,” it floats like a warped harp. Check the ecstatic “Born Again,” which spirals into psychedelic slide-guitar crossfire. Even the corniest stuff works: “All American” is their arena-rock moment, copping the distorted riff from Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and the gated-drum punch of vintage Def Leppard. Randolph’s never been much of a lyricist: “Live your life, love your wife and children while you can,” he sings on the revved-up title-track, “Love’s the only thing that works; that’s always been the plan.” But where words fail, groove speaks volumes.