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Schooled on sacred steel in a Pentecostal church, touted as our next Hendrix before he’d ever released an album, regarded with skepticism by haters of jam bands, Christianity, and/or New Jersey, Robert Randolph has fallen victim to the double whammy of crazy hype and mediocre songwriting. It takes a hit record to make an impression outside the Bonnaroo circuit. So far, we’ve gotten a studio album that dilutes his sound by playing up his eclecticism, a strong live album that makes no sense unless you’ve seen him, and a post-breakthrough studio album that sounds as though Nelly produced it. Randolph doesn’t need Eric Clapton messing with his head—he needs a producer capable of imposing structure and squeezing multiple emotions into a single song. The best part is that none of this matters if you can get within spittin’ distance of the guy, because the Family Band is a bulletproof live act, sure to upstage any group unfortunate enough to snag top billing. Why spend New Year’s Eve doing bodyshots and making spurious promises of self-betterment when you could hear Danyel Morgan sing “I Need More Love”? Complimentary Champagne toast at midnight.
ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND PERFORM WEDNESDAY AT 9 P.M. AT THE 9:30 CLUB, 815 V ST. NW. $55. (202) 265-0930.