Sunday afternoon: Roosevelt Collier
For the second consecutive FloydFest, my favorite show was the Saturday night, Hill Holler closer. The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker inspired this thought: Who needs to listen to oldies stations for fixes of old-school soul, funk and R&B? This band is making great original music and delivering it explosively right now.
Walker, according to his myspace bio, has been performing since the 1950s and worked for Chess and Motown. Now, with the all-white Dynamites, this black soul singer from Nashville, Tenn., has found a niche to get the recognition he deserves. This handkerchief-waving, Southern church-seasoned, gravelly-throated tenor looks and sounds like the vital embodiment of acts from Memphis’ Stax/Volt to Augusta, Ga.
And the band? Amazingly authentic, and brilliant improvisers.
The Lee Boys' Daric Bennett
At set’s end, guitarist/bandleader Bill “Leo Black” Elder told the crowd: “You can’t stop him. We’ve tried to stop him. Somebody try to stop him.”
I had no interest in stopping him. With Elder writing the songs, and Walker singing like the real freaking deal that he is, I was in soul heaven last night.
From there, it was down the hill to the village stage about 1 a.m. for the Lee Boys. (By the way, The Lee Boys are on the main stage right now, with Roosevelt Collier’s steel guitar licks cutting through the distance to where I’m writing). I and many other listeners were blown away when the band played here three years ago, and this time out, the act is even better. Way better.
I decided to leave my notebook alone, and just let this sacred steel gospel music soak in. But a couple of things came up that I had to remember and share:
Lee Boys' Earl Walker
> During one extended jam, Collier began quoting Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.” I know people are sick of hearing and thinking about the recently departed Jacko, but again, he and Quincy Jones came up with timeless pop melodies. And Collier showed the he’s brilliant working with a familiar riff, using it to launch furious improvisations.
> The rest of the band was up to the same funky, free-flowing business. Drummer Earl Walker was a beast. Singer Johnny Walker, onstage in place of Keith and Derrick Lee, was an apt replacement. And Daric Bennett, of Rochester, N.Y., (a sacred steel music stronghold and home of The Campbell Brothers), was probably the best bass player at this festival.
After the Sunday main stage set, Lee Boys leader/guitarist Alvin Lee told me that Bennett is the son of pedal steel player Lonnie “Big Ben” Bennett. The tradition runs so rich and deep.
This laptop battery is about to go dead, so I’m outta here for now. I’ll go catch the Lees at the main stage. Haw!
I’m back, and The Lee Boys delivered again, to close the main stage. As I write, Railroad Earth is closing Hill Holler, sounding sort of ancient and cool as always.
Just a word about the Sunday afternoon set. Luxembourg-based harmonica player Ron Tuffle joined the Lees onstage for a rollicking version of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” Tuffle was last at FloydFest three years ago, sitting in with Rory Block and Scott Perry at the folklife stage.
Tuffle, who was born in Texas and raised in Kansas, has lived overseas for years. He said he flew in from Europe last night, to see friends and family here and to sit in with The Lee Boys.
FloydFest, Tuffle said, “is one of the premiere eclectic music venues in America.”