For decades the glorious sounds of sacred steel music were confined within the walls of Church of God parishes throughout Florida and the East Coast. The music, a mixture of gospel and blues that centers on the pedal steel guitar, was never intentionally restricted, but the musicians never bothered taking it to the outside world. That changed in the mid-Nineties, after a folklorist discovered sacred steel musicians jamming in a South Florida guitar shop. Soon groups like Robert Randolph and the Family Band burst onto the national music scene.
One of South Florida's foremost contributors to the genre is the six-member group the Lee Boys, made up of three Lee brothers and their nephews, who cut their chops in the House of God Church of Perrine in South Miami-Dade. After recently signing with Arhoolie -- the label of choice for many sacred steel artists -- the Lee Boys have released their debut album, Say Yes!, a joyous romp of black gospel blues. And like all sacred steel music, the songs here center on the pedal steel guitar. For the Lee Boys, that means the lightning-fast hands of Roosevelt Collier, who jumps right into the fire with the adrenaline rush of "Say Yes!" in a celebration of blistering pedal steel solos and James Brown-like whoops and hollas from singer Keith Lee.
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The album's tracks alternate from scorchers like "Tribute to Calvin Cooke" to slow burners such as "Call Him by His Name." It's stirring and powerful stuff, the kind of music that gives you goose bumps as it beckons you to get off your butt and dance. Virtuosic musicianship is evident on this disc, and this band is one of the tightest in the genre. A gospel-inspired effort (with few direct references to it), Say Yes! is a heavenly slice of infectious sacred steel music.