Melody Trucks & The Lee Boys, Together Again!
Melody Trucks and The Lee Boys have been friends seemingly forever. Finally last December they toured together, and it was magnificent (more about that in a moment).
They are collaborating again on a three-night swing beginning in Charleston at The Commodore before heading to Florida for shows at Will’s Pub in Orlando and then at Dunedin Brewery.
Melody Trucks & The Lee Boys
05/11 The Commodore | Charleston SC
05/12 Will’s Pub | Orlando FL **w/ Speed Trap
05/13 Dunedin Brewery | Dunedin FL
I am going to plagiarize myself here. This is MusicFestNew’s review of their show together December 17 in Tampa. I don’t think I can improve on this.
Melody Trucks + The Lee Boys = Righteous Beauty
Mathematicians don’t care for the old saw “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” mainly because 2 + 2 will never be 5, no matter how hard it tries. Beyond math, though, that adage can definitely be demonstrated, never more clearly than at the last show of the recent run of dates with Melody Trucks joining The Lee Boys for a night of unbridled joy, gospel, and passion.
The Lee Boys are recognized as one of the finest sacred steel bands anywhere, and they have been delivering righteous and funkified music for decades. Their music centers around the church and the pedal steel guitar. Melody Trucks, at the age of 45, decided to follow in the family footsteps and pursue music, and in short order she put together the excellent Melody Trucks Band, then the group Brother and Sister with her brother Vaylor Trucks, the group A MighTy BLuR featuring her and Bobby Lee Rodgers, and another new band as well.
This edition of The Lee Boys features Alvin Lee, guitar and vocals; Derrick Lee, vocals; Little Al Cordy, bass and vocals; Earl “Big Easy” Walker, drums; and the newest member, Brian Byrd, pedal steel guitar and vocals. Byrd has pumped new life and focus into this outstanding family organization, securing its future for years to come.
Trucks, a fine percussionist, primarily with congas and hand-held instruments, has been finding her voice ever since her band’s debut at Great Outdoors Jam in October 2017. With each ensuing year, she was loosening up, becoming more confident, beginning to let it go vocally. Working with Bobby Lee Rodgers and with her latest band has given her even more freedom.
However, what we witnessed at The Attic at Rock Brothers on Saturday, December 17, was a totally free Melody Trucks who delivered the best vocal performance of the 20 or so I’ve been privileged to witness. She melted completely into the framework of The Lee Boys, whose gospel-filled, joyous performance was a masterwork of beauty.
There were many musical options around the area, and the room was not crowded (although it damn well should have been). No matter: The Lee Boys and Ms. Trucks played as if we were 600.
They opened with the refrain “Bye, bye, baby” from “Call That Gone,” a North Mississippi Allstars tune, Trucks on lead vocals, and that segued into “Fiyo on the Bayou.” One of the powerful parts of this show was that everybody but “Big Easy” sang… and sang gloriously. Up next was a Lee Boys staple, “So Much to Live For,” with Derrick testifying as only he can. [That is not true. I am delighted to report that Derrick’s brother Keith Lee is in much better health and working to perform again; that man is FILLED with the spirit!]
Trucks explained to us the relationship that he family has with the Lee family. Her father was Butch Trucks, the late founder and drummer of the Allman Brothers Band. The Lee Boys performed at numerous iterations of the Wanee Music Festival put on by ABB, and they performed at the wedding of Melody’s younger sister. That’s a tight relationship! That done, they played the ABB tune “Stand Back.” Little Al was in superb form on bass all evening, with “Big Easy” keeping perfect time.
As mentioned, Byrd brings great freshness and verve to the proceedings with his vocals, pedal steel string bending, and great cheerleading. He took us on a deep blues ride. Derrick then offered a Lee Boy standard, “On My Way,” working the call and response with Trucks. Derrick then turned it into a party with “Dance with Me,” another regular setlist favorite. And they do this killer vamp at the end of the song; I don’t know how else to describe it. If you’ve seen them before, you’ve heard it!
Next up was The Staples Singers’ “I Know a Place,” led by Trucks. As they played, Byrd talked about the Pentecostal church experience, then offering “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Eventually, with his pedal steel, he mimicked a freight train, and suddenly they shifted into a country vamp as Trucks sang “Folsom Prison Blues”! And that eventually led to yet another Lee Boy hit, “Don’t Let the Devil Ride.” That absolutely smoked!
Trucks finally let it ALL out with a righteous reading of a song she loves to perform, “Yield Not to Temptation,” made famous by the late Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.). [Note: there are many songs with this title. This one was written by Ralph Bass and Sonny Thompson.] It was magnificent. They followed that with yet another Lee Boys staple, “Feel the Music,” and I assure you that everyone there could.
Alvin Lee discovered it was the birthday of Sheree Englehardt, who with her husband maintains the amazing website GoTonight.com, which lists dozens upon dozens of musical performances in the area on a daily basis. They sang her the traditional Happy Birthday song. Then we found out that 24-year-old Colton, the youngest of us there, was also celebrating a birthday. Trucks sang him the Stevie Wonder birthday greeting. “Smile” was the lovely tune that followed.
Alvin then asked if anyone had any questions for the band before they played their final tune. A gentleman there (Colton’s dad?) asked if they would perform “Freight Train.” First, Trucks explained that they had not worked that song out yet (I love the sound of that word), but she agreed to sing a portion of it a cappella, first telling the story of how she wrote the song to honor her father, often called Freight Train, after his death. That was as special as special could be.
To close, they chose a fabulous tune that Col. Bruce and the Codetalkers performed, one written by Bobby Lee Rodgers and one that he and Trucks perform together, “Tumblin’ Down.” It was a glorious way to close out the 90-minute show. Trucks and the band spent lots of time with the audience when the music was over.
What a wonderful night!
So she said “yet,” which means we should expect further collaborations between Ms. Trucks and The Lee Boys, with a potential recording and more concerts. We highly suggest you not miss them next time around. Just sayin’…
The Lee Boys