Family band rolls into town to 'Pray for Snow'

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— Pedal steel guitar wizard Robert Randolph may not have seen a future of commercial record labels and a mass production of his music, but that's probably what he'll get.

The gospel pedal steel guitarist held his roots in the House of God church in Orange, N.J., but saw the light in uniting more people than just his African-American congregation.

Randolph said he finds comfort in gathering all walks of life to inspire through his music.

"Music has to be heard everywhere. Everybody's been enjoying the music," Randolph said. "We sing about great stuff to inspire people."

And that's exactly what Kdub Productions owner Keri Hirsch hopes will happen people will be inspired to start and maintain a tradition in Steamboat that brings people together to pray for snow.

Hirsch wanted to follow in the footsteps of other mountain resort towns and host a first annual Pray for Snow Fest in Steamboat Springs. And only one man would be perfect for that prayer church-going, pedal steel guitar genius Randolph.

But Randolph and the Family Band don't preach the gospel to their fans.

Hirsch said Big Sky, Mont., recently celebrated the 27th annual Pray for Snow as well as people in Snowbird, Utah, who also asked the Native American community to unite for a prayer to the snow gods.

His gospel background and new-wave jam style inspired Hirsch to get Randolph and the Family Band to Steamboat Springs for the Pray for Snow Fest.

"It's kind of like an opening season party," Hirsch said. "It's a tradition in a lot of other resort towns and it's time to have one here."

Kdub Productions, KFMU and Vectra Bank are sponsoring the Pray for Snow Fest this Sunday. The $10 ticket gives people the chance to participate in a raffle to win various prizes donated by local businesses.

And the family band is no lie. Randolph recruited his cousins, Marcus and Danyel, to play bass and drums with him, while his pseudo-white cousin, John Ginty, plays organ.

"He's there to get people to dance get up and move," said Hirsch, adding he attracts a wide variety of fans.

Hirsch said he sounds Jerry Garcia-ish in some of his fluty sweet sounds and said Stevie Ray Vaughn is a main influence from the likes of his music.

Randolph recently collaborated with North Mississippi Allstars and John Medeski to put out his first commercial recording, "The Word."

"I opened a show for the Allstars in New York," Randolph said of the event more than a year ago. "Medeski just happened to be there."

Soon after, he quit his job at a law firm and recorded music just one month after they met.

"Most are just one- and two-take songs," said Randolph, amazed with the finished product.

The Word, also the name of the group, will tour the country this winter.

He listens to his newfound friends' music and said he just started listening to legends he would like to pattern his career after Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Warren Haynes to name a few. But he also enjoys a little rhythm and blues now and then.

Randolph and the Family Band are on the road for a two-week tour before heading back to New Jersey.

They recorded a live album, "Live at the Wetlands," last year and have plans to record a studio album this winter.

The band has been slammed with tour dates and locations. But some back home at the House of God are not particularly pleased with Randolph's new fame.

"The thing is with people back at the church the majority of people will root for you and tell you to follow your dream," Randolph said. "But people like the ministers, they think you shouldn't play anywhere else but the church."

The band members get back to the church when their not touring regularly and Randolph said most people welcome their return.

Randolph considers himself in line with great church performers such as Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Al Green.

"But I'm not the preacher," Randolph said.

Randolph began playing the pedal steel guitar seriously for the House of God when a friend was murdered on the corner street where they used to play as children. Randolph dedicated a song he wrote, "The Prayer," to the friend.

Since then, people have been coming from miles around to see Randolph and his family band create sounds in the church that have pushed him into the public limelight.

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