Santa Cruz Good Times

Dec 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Home Is Where The Art Is

music RobertRandolph1Sacred steel whiz Robert Randolph reconnects with roots, finds inspiration

Last year at The Monterey Jazz Festival, Robert Randolph and the Family Band laid down a groove so infectious that it reached right into the genetic core of the audience. They were the only band that day whose music rivaled the intensity of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds’ jets that were buzzing above the fairgrounds. It wasn’t sheer volume that captivated the crowd—rather, it was the skills of brilliant sacred steel player Robert Randolph.

When he burst onto the scene in 2000, Randolph’s music was unlike anything anyone had ever heard before. Imagine catching Bob Marley at CBGB in 1976 and hearing reggae for the first time. Fast forward to today, and Randolph is touring with his mentors, The Slide Brothers. Together, they deliver a sound that is at once new, electrifying and full of the Holy Spirit.

Randolph grew up in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Irvington, N.J. in the 1980s and ’90s. While many of his friends ended up in jail, Randolph was safely sequestered within the church community that his family was a part of. From his home in West Orange, N.J. Randolph recalls those formative years. “As a kid sometimes people would be like, ‘Oh, you’re going to church again, why you going there?’ But hey, in those days you didn’t have any choice—our parents made us go to church.”

Unique to all other churches in the area, The Church of the Living God featured sacred steel—more commonly known as pedal steel guitar—in the church band. “It’s like Buena Vista Social Club—finally people can understand where my music comes from,” says Randolph.  “This style of pedal steel and guitar has been going on in our church since the early 1900s.”

Wanting to share the sounds and story of sacred steel with the world, Randolph’s latest project features his mentors from the church, including legendary players Calvin Cooke, Darick Campbell, Chuck Campbell and Aubrey Ghent. On their new release, Robert Randolph Presents: The Slide Brothers, music that has been 80 years in the making and previously only found within the walls of The Church of the Living God is now available to the secular public.

Known as the B.B. King of the sacred steel, Calvin Cooke of The Slide Brothers explains from his home in Atlanta, why, after so much time, the music has finally reached the masses. “I played in the church for 57 years and now another generation has come up behind us and they like to get out [and] do more,” says Cooke.

During their live show at The Rio Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 20, Randolph and The Slide Brothers plan to play a variety of songs that everyone can enjoy—from Eric Clapton’s “Motherless Children” to the spiritual “Wade in the Water.”

The band members attribute their onstage chemistry to their tight-knit relationship. “We have all learned from each other and we are like family on the steel guitar because we all grew up together,” says Cooke. “We used to live together and babysit and we’ve known each other our whole lives.”

Randolph says that sharing the national stage with The Slide Brothers has been the greatest and most satisfying achievement of his career. “Now we actually get to tell our story,” he says. “Everyone will get to understand how important those guys were to me and the history of music of where I come from.” 

Robert Randolph performs with The Slide Brothers at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 423-8209.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location