Robert Randolph is one of the rare artists who's been able to convince a sizable audience that the pedal steel guitar has a place outside country music. This is partly due to his over-the-top skills on the instrument, but just as importantly, Randolph and his Family Band have consistently shown their ability to launch a soul shakedown party of major proportions whenever they take the stage or set up in the studio. 2017's Got Soul, Randolph's fifth studio album, seems designed to capture the energy and power of Randolph and his band in full flight, and producer Matt Pierson has gone out of his way to give this material a big, rollicking sound that makes the most of the muscle and sweat of this music. While the tough, funky report of the rhythm section and the call of the organ provide the backbone of these songs, it's Randolph's pedal steel that gives Got Soul its unique sound, as the wailing peals of his instrument tear through the mix and lend this as much of a vocal presence as any instrumentalist can provide. While vintage soul and funk figures play a big role in these arrangements, Randolph's background in gospel is never entirely out of the picture, and there's a churchy passion at the heart of this music that adds plenty to the emotional resonance, especially on tracks like "Be the Change" and "Heaven's Calling".
For something less traditional but no less killing, try Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band’s Bang That Bell. A post-Hendrix exercise in funky-blue wah-wah wailing, this one has more allusions to Prince and the Isley Brothers than Muddy and the Wolf. In the course of a single tune (“Another Bad Day”) he can blend jazzy, Wes Montgomery-styled octaves with over-the-top wah-wah work and metalesque speed picking. But in spite of all the virtuosic six-string technique, Taylor can also get up into some nasty real-deal shuffles and earthy funk, as he proves so convincingly on “It’s Later than You Think,” which features some brilliant harmonica playing by Sugar Blue, and on a super-funky updating of the Earl King classic “Trick Bag.” And he digs into a slow blues, “A Quitter Never Wins,” with fangs bared. The closer, “Even Trolls Love Rock & Roll,” is a wild fretboard scorcher featuring guest guitar slinger Eric Gales. A tremendous guitarist and soulful singer, Taylor is a major versatile talent on the crossover blues-rock circuit that includes the likes of Robert Cray, Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Featuring Craig Anders (guitar, vocals), Mark Anders (bass, vocals), Peter Filleul (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Pix (lead vocals) and Jerry Robins (drums), The Parlour band was a melodic Progressive outfit who excelled vocally and toured extensively as support act to bands such as Caravan and Khan, but failed to make a commercial impression, despite the excellence of their work, leaving behind their sole album for Deram as their recorded legacy.