To an audience, the pedal steel guitar appears to have more in common with a keyboard than a guitar. Positioned horizontally, it produces a strong, twangy sound from its strings, which are plucked by finger or pick. The vibrations then ooze through a magnetic converter and out an amp. Don't let your confusion get in the way of your ears. The pedal steel guitar can be the basis for some dirty, down-home blues.
Miami native Roosevelt Collier for years has been stretching the boundaries of which sounds can be manipulated by the pedal steel guitar. He came to this publication's attention in 2005, when his playing uplifted congregations at Pentecostal churches. He performed in a six-member "sacred steel" group, comprising family members known as the Lee Boys. The Lee Boys, with their blues-meets-gospel formula, were able to gig at international venues and, more surprising, play to audiences outside churches after finding a loyal following on the jam-band circuit.
As a solo artist, Collier has found an even larger fan base, which he has earned one perspiration-heavy gig at a time. His live shows are packed with raw passion, and even from the seated position that the pedal steel guitar mandates, he still sweats enough to make a CrossFit instructor proud.
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Collier will headline this weekend's show at Railroad Blues. His opener, Lather Up!, consists of three members of the Heavy Pets, Collier's frequent jam buddies. Other noteworthy acts that the local-boy-made-good has played alongside over the years include Rolling Stones saxophonist Karl Denson and Umphrey's McGee and Perpetual Groove. The heaviest hitter Collier has shared the stage with, though, is undoubtedly the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted Allman Brothers Band, right before the guys called it quits last year.
"This year has been pretty awesome," Collier told New Times in a 2014 interview. "I'm not taking any of this for no kind of granted... It's a thrill to be on the ride."
Roosevelt Collier with Lather Up! 10 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at Railroad Blues, 30 NE 14th St., Miami; 305-392-0687; railroadbluesmiami.com. Admission for those under 21 cost $20; over 21 cost $12. Ages 18 and up.