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No doubt about it — Robert Randolph has seen the light. Twice, actually. First came light of “the Way and the Truth” variety in the House of God Pentecostal Church in Orange, N.J., where he accompanied his parents’ sermons on a pedal-steel guitar. Then came another light — the spotlight. In less than four years since he was discovered rocking the sanctuary, the 26-year-old has skyrocketed to fame, finding fans in hip-hoppers (The Roots), bluegrass legends (Del McCoury) and jam-band staples (Dave Matthews/Medeski, Martin and Wood).

While RR’s playing style begins and ends with the gospel, his pitch-bending dynamics and machinegun picking pace have garnered comparisons to Jimi Hendrix, Joe Satriani and Duane Allman. Ask him and he’ll tell you Stevie Ray Vaughn and Anita Baker were bigger influences, but once he starts playing, you’ll forget to ask. His fingers skitter across 13 strings like lightning bolts, while a foot pedal gives each note such a vocal quality you’ll swear Aretha Franklin was trapped in the amp. This is not the steel guitar of Hawaiian luaus or an Arkansas honky-tonk. No, these riffs are searing, unadulterated joy — too hot for heaven and too sweet for hell.

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