Even though Robert Randolph & the Family Band had already become famous for blending gospel, blues, and contemporary styles on their first two albums, they decided to bring that same sort of syncretism to their source material for the third, We Walk This Road. Toward that end, they brought in producer T-Bone Burnett, a man who knows a thing or two about reconciling American roots music with the modern world. The results succeed in extending the group's scope in a way that matches its sound. Randolph, who was only allowed to listen to Christian music growing up, has stated that Burnett's deep knowledge of blues history opened up new worlds for him, and the steel guitar star has reckoned that he ended up spending thousands of dollars "catching up" and buying music digitally. Ultimately, though, the process isn't important -- what matters is what Burnett and the band achieved together, and We Walk This Road is a consistently surprising tour de force that moves easily through rock, blues, R&B, gospel, and more, sometimes bringing them all together at the same time. "If I Had My Way," for example, modernizes Blind Willie Johnson's gospel-blues classic with touches of rock, electric blues, and hip-hop, as Randolph trades licks with guest Ben Harper. Musical roots of a comparatively more recent vintage are tapped as well, like on the swampy, funked-up version of John Lennon's "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama," which features some guest guitar from Doyle Bramhall II, and a groove-conscious, pop-savvy take on Prince's "Walk Don't Walk." Naturally, the most striking sonic thread connecting these winding paths together is the visceral but otherworldly "sacred steel" work of Randolph himself, which remains a wonder to behold no matter the context.
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AllMusic Review by James Allen