The Lee Boys

Testify

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The Lee Boys come from Miami, where they grew up in the Pentecostal House of God church that gave birth to the sacred steel tradition. Pedal steel guitar takes center stage in this family band's arrangements, but the style of playing owes very little to country steel or even Hawaiian slide guitar, the traditions that gave birth to the steel guitar. When combined with the fierce lead vocals of Derrick and Keith Lee, and the sanctified backing voices of guitarist Alvin Lee and bass player Alvin Cordy, Jr., you have music that'll have even non-believers hollering "Amen!" Testify opens on a deceptively sedate note with "Smile," a celebration of staying positive in the face of trouble. It suggests the early songs of Stevie Wonder; Roosevelt Collier's steel purrs like a kitten, but you can sense the lion lurking just under the surface. The group takes off on "Going to Glory" and doesn't let up for the next six tracks, with blistering steel and the rhythm section of Cordy's bass and Earl Walker's drum driving the band's powerful vocals. On the traditional "I'm Not Tired," a variation of "Motherless Children," they bring in some New Orleans funk; "Always by My Side" and the title track are straightforward R&B-fueled funk. Collier's steel is powerful throughout, growling like a wrathful avenging spirit and soaring like a soul set free from the confines of this sinful earthly existence. The album closes with four meditative tunes: "Wade in the Water" is a slow-burning number that plays guest Gia Wyre's lead vocal off Alvin Lee's stinging lead guitar; "Praise You" suggests the funk of Earth, Wind and Fire; "Feel the Music" rides a quiet R&B groove and gives Collier a chance to lay out before things wrap up with "We Need to Hear from You," an AndraƩ Crouch tune taken at a slow, soulful pace.

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