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.

Unable to view this article?

This could be due to a conflict with your ad-blocking or security software.

Please add japantimes.co.jp and piano.io to your list of allowed sites.

If this does not resolve the issue or you are unable to add the domains to your allowlist, please see out this support page.

We humbly apologize for the inconvenience.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.