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August Issue
more... ArtistsGuitaristsSound SamplesGospelApril 2013Pedal SteelLee Boys

Interview: Lee Boys - Pickin’ and Praisin’

Interview: Lee Boys - Pickin’ and Praisin’

Roosevelt Collier's Gear

DL [Dan Lawson] lap steel, Fessenden 10-string pedal steel

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, Egnater Renegade 112, Marsh 50-watt closed-back amp

Pigtronix pedals (Overdrive, Envelope Filter, Sustain), Ernie Ball volume pedal, Dunlop Cry Baby Wah, Boss GT-8

Ernie Ball Steel Guitar Strings

“I was born with this gift of playing the steel, but it was up to me to take that gift and grow with it,” says Collier. “I used to go off a thousand miles a minute—on each song, each solo was a thousand miles a minute. I got the reputation for being fast, like, ‘Man, this guy is lightning speed.’ But when a friend like Rick Lollar would come onstage, he’d play like eight notes and eat me alive. The crowd would go crazy, because he built his stuff. It’s all about building. Save your big guns for later on.”

The songwriting on Testify comprises a unique mix of positive messages, catchy grooves, and sophisticated harmonies. Tracks like “Sinnerman” (which references Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”) and “We Need to Hear from You” make use of unexpected modulations that would be equally at home on a Steely Dan cut. “Between jazz and funk, that’s where you’ll find me,” says Alvin. “If you listen to my chord progressions, you’ll hear a lot of jazz influences. A lot of the church musicians were big influences, but I also like guys like Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, and Jaco Pastorius—because I mainly played bass coming up. I also loved George Benson and Stanley Jordan.”

Alvin Lee's Gear

Fender Strat with Roland MIDI pickup

Fender Twin Reverb, Roland JC-120

Roland GR-33 guitar synth, Boss GT-8

Strings and Picks
D’Addario .010 sets, Fender medium picks

The Lee Boys don’t come from an academically jazz background per se, but they‘re always experimenting, taking lessons, and applying their knowledge of theory to different styles. “I have a lot of jazz influence because of these guys I’ve come across,” Collier says. “This scene outside of the church has been a big influence on me. I’ve learned a lot. With us intertwining that theory with our traditional sacred steel—plus all the different genres that we listen to—I think that formed the Lee Boys style.”

Because the band members were raised as multi-instrumentalists, they often switch instruments onstage, with Alvin switching to bass or pedal steel and Collier playing electric guitar or bass. For the most part though, Alvin is on guitar—the perfect foil for Collier’s overdriven steel explorations. “My main guitar is a Fender Strat with a Roland MIDI setup and a GR-33 guitar synth,” Alvin says. “I use a MIDI piano or organ sound to give it a full, gospel-spirit feel. More or less, Roosevelt is doing all the picking and I stay in the background and kind of form the body with chords. From my background as a bass player, I use medium picks because I like to hit the strings a little harder. I usually do licks with my rhythm patterns, so I need some resistance, but I don’t use heavy picks because I don’t solo that much.” While Lee and Collier are both proponents of the Boss GT-8 multi-effects unit, it’s a family feud when it comes to amps: Alvin favors a Fender Twin Reverb and Roland JC-120, while Collier vehemently disagrees. “No, no, no, no, dude. I don’t use Twin Reverbs—I can’t stand them,” he says. “Back at church, the only amp that we actually played out of was a Peavey Session 500, which is a solid-state amp. But I learned about amps, wattage, and tubes. Now, I really don’t like to use anything past a 50-watt amp, because I like to crank the bad boy up. Now I use a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, because it has a smooth overdrive channel. But my first-choice amp is an Egnater Renegade 112—that amp smokes. But a lot of your tone is your personal touch.”

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