Robert Randolph may have been named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” by Rolling Stone, but even guitar gods aren’t always perfect.
His advantage, he joked in a phone interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, is that he has a built-in means of covering for himself.
“It kinda feels good to be a pedal-steel slide player, ’cause then you can get away with all of the mistakes!” Randolph said with a laugh. “ ‘Aw, it’s alright, he’s just playing slide! No worries — it’s supposed to sound that way.’ ”
Not that anyone attending Thursday’s Robert Randolph and The Family Band concert at O.P. Rockwell in Park City or Friday’s sold-out show at The State Room in Salt Lake City is expecting anything other than a brilliant performance. Between the time when he burst into the public consciousness with “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” almost a decade ago and this year’s Grammy-nominated album “Got Soul,” Randolph hasn’t made many missteps.
Given that his beginnings with the instrument were simply so he could serve as a “sacred steel” accompanist at the House of God Church in his hometown of Orange, N.J., Randolph remains genuinely tickled by his mainstream success.
He confessed he used to turn on VH1 every morning back when “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” was breaking (and when music videos were still frequently shown on TV), incredulous at seeing himself featured as an “Artist You Oughta Know.” And, when discussing his latest work, Randolph couldn’t help but interject at one point, “You know the album got nominated for a Grammy today! Haha!”
Indeed, “Got Soul” got a nod for Best Contemporary Blues Album — the fifth Grammy nomination of his career.
Randolph said the album’s direction was a byproduct of the sullen mood he’s seen overtake the nation over the past year. As a result of that, he was looking to inject a bit of positivity.
“I wanted to do something that, between the lyrics and music, was very uplifting … something that makes you wanna dance and rock out,” he said. “With everybody so down and out, you look at Twitter, and it’s all about [President Donald] Trump, 24 hours a day, and everybody’s all depressed, so I just wanted to do something to get people saying, ‘Look, we’re all here playing music, hanging out, still having fun.’ ”
He also brought along a few longtime pals to help him with the effort.
Darius Rucker, the ex-frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish turned country music star, lends his vocals to lead single “Love Do What It Do.” Soul singer Anthony Hamilton appears on “She Got Soul.” And gospel musician/organist Cory Henry guests on “I Thank You.”
Randolph said he’s known Henry since he was 19. And with Hamilton, because Randolph “recorded on one of his songs, what — five, 10, 12 years ago … it was cool just to have him sort of return the favor and come out.” As for Rucker, the two met in Nashville and became fast friends, frequenting sports bars and just hanging out long before they got the opportunity to collaborate.
“Man it was cool — those are all friends that I’ve known for a while. I just felt that a lot of these things just kinda fit those guys,” Randolph said. “I just wanted to get in the studio, play it out and see where it goes from there. … Now we’re talking about one of those guys maybe doing a performance with me at the Grammys!”
Before all that, though, comes his trip to Utah.
Though it’s a bit rare for an artist of Randolph’s stature to play back-to-back shows in a state Utah’s size, he said the decision simply came down to, “I just think we haven’t played there that much, but I know we have some fans there.”
And he intends to deliver the virtuosity they’ve have come to expect.
After all, though no one’s perfect, when you’ve been named one of the best guitarists ever, the standards have to be high.
“It’s funny, ’cause sometimes I’ll write a song and I’ll go, ‘Aw, man, I gotta live up to the “Hundred Greatest Guitarists” thing,’ ” Randolph said, “and I gotta go back to the drawing board.”
Robert Randolph and The Family Band
Thursday, 9 p.m.
Where • O.P. Rockwell; 268 Main St., Park City
Tickets • $35-$65; Ticketfly
Friday, 9 p.m.
Where • The State Room; 638 S. State St., Salt Lake City
Tickets • SOLD OUT