Melody Trucks & The Lee Boys Raise the Roof with Joyous Noise Once Again

[Feature image courtesy of Phil Ross]

Late last fall, Melody Trucks and The Lee Boys, dear friends since the early days of the Wanee Music Festival, felt the magnet drawing their creative abilities together, and the results were spectacular. At the time, there were hints (very strong hints) that this would not be a one-off tour.

True to form, the party of the first part and the party of the second part decided on a quick three-night run, beginning in Charleston, passing through Orlando, and sliding home at Dunedin Brewery on Saturday, May 13. Apparently the roof is pretty securely fastened, because they tried for two and a half hours to tear that sucker right off!

Melody Trucks & The Lee Boys – Dunedin Brewery – 05.13.23. 📸: Matt Hillman

Before we talk about the specifics of the show, I came to understand something it has only taken me about three dozen Lee Boys shows to fully recognize: the absolutely titanic power of Little Al Cordy on bass and Earl “Big Easy” Walker on drums. I mean, I KNOW they’re great, but I couldn’t take my ears and eyes off them all night*. Every song in the setlist shimmered because of what they added to the gumbo. SIMPLY INCREDIBLE!!

Dunedin Brewery was wall to wall for both sets, people dancing grooving and testifying. It was glorious. However, it was unnecessarily loud for that space. I am aware that your mileage might vary, but you ought to be able to sit in a room without wearing earplugs. It is usually just right in there, but not Saturday. Just sayin’…

Now back to your friendly musical review…

Set one opened with a Cordy tune called “Good Time.” Shortly into the second song, I was overcome by a blessedly short vertigo episode and missed most of the first set*. In the interim, they had been working hard to turn that mother out (well, it would be Mother’s Day at midnight, so…). Special guest and guitar shredder Stephanie Perez had joined in for a song or two. 

I made it back in time to hear “Yield Not to Temptation,” a song at the very heart of Melody Trucks and at the foundation of The Lee Boys. Bobby Bland had a hit record with it in 1962, but it was our godfather, the late Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.), who fixed that song in the jamband firmament. Ever since Trucks began performing with her band in September of 2017, she has been able to set herself free to sing with abandon. I would say she hit a milestone Saturday during this one; everything came out in heart-pounding fashion.

Melody Trucks & The Lee Boys – Dunedin Brewery – 05.13.23. 📸: Phil Ross

The second set opened with “Use Me,” Derrick Lee on lead vocals. It was a fine, ten-minute romp to the tune, with lots of background help on stage and in the audience! Alvin Lee was working away on guitar, and the man who embodies the essence of the sacred steel experience was Brian “Dirty” Byrd on pedal steel guitar, an outstanding practitioner full of creative ideas. Trucks was alternately working her tambourine and her congas.

Derrick asked if anybody wanted to testify this evening, and there were many, many takers. This Lee Boy original begins with Derrick on lead vocal and plenty of backup from Trucks and Cordy. Derrick apologized later for his voice, but it sure sounded welcome to us! Cordy took a spin on bass, followed by Trucks on congas, then Byrd on steel with some wild special effects.

Stephanie Perez with Melody Trucks & The Lee Boys – Dunedin Brewery – 05.13.23. 📸: Michelle Laura Waxler

Perez returned to the stage as Alvin asked if we like the blues. After a raucous YES, Byrd said, “How about B.B King?” More big response. Byrd lit into a slow take on “Rock Me Baby,” taking lead vocal. Perez and Byrd tore it up before Trucks grabbed the mic for more fine vocals, and Perez took one more round on guitar.

Next up was a Lee Boys staple, the old Temptations smash “Shakey Ground” (written by Eddie Hazel, who played on the original as well). Derrick loves this one and poured himself into it. Perez and Byrd also grabbed solos.

My comments about Cordy and Walker were solidified when the band rocked “Folsom Prison Blues” at 100 mph, with Trucks handled lead vocals. Cordy and Walker turned this into the fullest of full-tilt boogies. JAW-DROPPING!

They chose the other song Trucks loves like “Yield Not to Temptation”: “Turn On Your Lovelight.” If ever America needed a theme song, it is now, and “Lovelight” is the perfect choice. Melody Trucks and The Lee Boys delivered this one — like every other song in their two sets — with pure conviction and faith.

And we say: AMEN.



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