Synopsis by Mark Deming
Inspired by the Biblical passage "Praise him with stringed instruments" (Psalms 150:4), a number of Pentecostal churches in the '30s in the Keith Dominion and Jewel Dominion denominations (primarily in Florida) who couldn't raise money for expensive church organs during the Depression began using steel guitars to accompany their Sunday services. Over the years a rich tradition of "sacred steel" music grew, which incorporated gospel, blues, and jazz flavors into performances that blazed with the Holy Spirit. The sacred steel style was all but unknown outside the churches where it was performed until the late '90s, when a compilation of recordings by historic and contemporary sacred steel caused a sensation among roots music fans. But the music had still not made its way to mainstream listeners until 2000, when Robert Randolph, a gifted steel guitarist who played with a House of God church in New Jersey, began exposing his music to secular audiences at blues clubs in New York City. In 2003, Robert Randolph was signed to Warner Brothers Records and seemed poised to become the first sacred steel performer to make a major splash on the pop charts. Press On is a documentary which explores the history of sacred steel music, and Randolph's unlikely rise to mainstream success as he struggles to bring his message and music to a larger audience without sacrificing his principles along the way. Press On features cameo appearances from noted fans Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, and Warren Haynes.