By Andy J. Gordon
The concert at the Mint (www.themintla.com/) on October 7, 2010, was almost a religious experience. Not just because the musicians were so good, but because the style they played was a unique form of gospel infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, and country. “Sacred Steel” is a musical style, and an African-American gospel tradition that developed in House of God churches in the 1930’s. The Lee Boys (www.leeboys.com) brought their version of the music to Los Angeles for the first time. They should come back often because the show was inspirational, extremely danceable, and a load of fun.
The band consists of three brothers, Alvin Lee (guitar), Derrick Lee, and Keith Lee (vocals), along with their three nephews, Roosevelt “The DR.” Collier (pedal-steel guitar), Alvin Cordy, Jr., (7-string bass), and Earl Walker (drums). Each member began making music at the ages of 7 and 8 in the House of God church they attended in Perrine, FL. They have been successful on the festival circuit and have performed or toured with musical artists such as Bob Weir, the Allman Brothers Band, the Black Crowes, Los Lobos, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk.
At the Mint show they used a combination of original songs and diverse covers that kept the crowd dancing. Their music is infectious – it is nearly impossible to keep from bouncing around the club when the Lee Boys are nailing a groove. The first cover was “Squeeze,” a song by fellow Sacred Steel master Robert Randolph. Roosevelt “The DR.” Collier and Randolph are the reigning leaders of the pedal-steel guitar, and Collier’s skill ranges from soulfully slow passages to blazingly fast solos. Originals “I’m Not Tired,” “So Much to Live for,” and “Always by My Side” featured the groups solid instrumental skills along with Keith Lee’s inspired vocals. They did a nifty instrumental cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” with Collier’s pedal steel replacing the lyrics. They also did a fine version of the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.” Late in the set the band launched into a medley that started with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious,” jumped to Parliament-Funkadelic’s “We Want the Funk,” and “We’re Gonna Have a Good Time,” and finished back with “Superstitious.” The show came to an abrupt conclusion when Earl Walker accidentally put his foot pedal through the bass drum. The band said goodnight while the crowd gave them a well-deserved ovation.
Although the show was unexpectedly cut short, the Lee Boys gave an energetic performance and nobody was disappointed. Their visit to L.A. was a definite success and anyone looking for a musically inspiring experience should make every effort to catch them live.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon