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The Lee Boys - Testify

Evil Teen Records 2012

13 tracks; 59 minutes

The Lee Boys are a ‘Sacred Steel’ band, playing spiritual music with pedal steel replacing the traditional organ used in many churches. This is overtly religious music so some might not feel that it will be for them. However, the music is terrific, a joyous invitation to celebrate faith through music and movement, or, as Warren Haynes puts it – “high energy Gospel infused jamming” – no wonder they play on the jam band circuit and this CD comes on Warren’s Evil Teen label. It is their first studio recording since 2005.

The band is a family affair: brothers Alvin (guitar), Derrick and Keith (vocals) are joined by nephews Alvin Cordy Jr. (bass), Earl Walker (drums) and Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel). Matt Slocum adds keyboards to most tracks and special guests Warren Haynes and Jimmy Herring play guitar on two tracks each. Vocalist Gia Wyre takes the lead on “Wade In The Water” and adds backing vocals elsewhere. The material is mainly original with the entire band contributing material as well as arranging three traditional gospel songs.

First and foremost we should discuss the traditional “I’m Not Tired”, a tour de force as Warren Haynes shares vocals with the Boys as well as contributing some fine slide playing before Roosevelt launches into some incredible runs on the steel, all supported by a terrific horn section – wow! The other track on which Warren appears is “Praise You” where he plays lead guitar on a funk-driven tune that is not a million miles away from vintage Stevie Wonder. Jimmy Herring is another associate of the jam band community and he provides the lead guitar on title track “Testify” and “Always By My Side”. The former find Jimmy adding some strong leads lines with a jazzy undertone to a mid-paced funk piece, the latter more of a soul ballad with some exciting pedal steel at its centre.

“Wade In The Water” is taken at a slow pace set by Roosevelt’s pedal steel in ‘crying’ mode at the beginning. Gia Wyre’s vocal is excellent, recorded with what sounds like a little echo to give her an almost ethereal sound appropriate to this gospel classic, aided by some classy backing vocals. To top off an outstanding track Roosevelt returns with an amazing steel solo towards the end. The other traditional song is “So Much To Live For” which also features the horns and has some melodic interplay between the guitar and the pedal steel.

Probably the track that sounds the most like a gospel revival is “Going To Glory” with its propulsive beat and handclap accompaniment, as well as the organ featuring quite prominently. Opening cut “Smile” reminded me of Teseschi/Trucks with the delicate steel playing very reminiscent of Derek’s style on slide and a very strong chorus that will have you humming along in no time.

I have not mentioned every track here, but to be honest there are no weak songs. All celebrate the family’s faith and all feature beautiful harmonies, great arrangements and some superb playing, particularly the pedal steel of the band’s not so secret weapon, Roosevelt Collier. This is a CD that deserves wide attention and it is good to see that The Lee Boys were recently on the LRBC so should have gained some additional exposure there.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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