Roosevelt Collier’s Allstar Throwdown at Aisle 5 in ATL

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For some, music is just music. To others, it is a crucial part of enjoying and appreciating all that life has to offer. Music can take you to many places both physically and mentally. Last Saturday night when the lights went down and the band started playing, there was no other place any of us would rather be. Smiling alongside your best friends at a concert is simply as good as it gets. It is the little things that keep us sane in this crazy world we live in.

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Jeff Myers Photography

The opener set from West Virginia based funk/jam act Fletcher’s Grove set the pace for the night. This is definitely a band to put on your radar, you don’t secure slots at Camp Barefoot and All Good Music Festival without some serious talent. They’re one of the better opening acts I’ve seen in quite some time. Matt Slocum who has played with the likes of Susan Tedeschi, Aquarium Rescue Unit, John Popper, and Rich Robinson joined the group on the Hammond organ for a lengthy and well thought out cover of the Dead’s “Shakedown Street.” 

In 2007, I saw Roosevelt “The Dr.” Collier take the stage at Langerado for the first time with the Lee Boys. Our jaws dropped to the ground of Florida’s Markham Park from the opening notes. This was probably the first time we had seen anyone play a sacred steel. That sound, that warmth, reminded me of the slide guitar genius of my favorite players like Derek Trucks, but this sound was different. There was something more to it. My friend and I were blown away at discovering the Lee Boys.

Fast forward about eight years later. That same buddy and I were standing in the audience watching Roosevelt Collier play in Atlanta. After working to put this show together with a great partner, Bret Peretz, we saw a dream come to fruition. It was a special moment, indeed.

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Chemistry would be an understatement on this night. Matt Slocum told us we were going to “have a lot of fun” before the night started– and boy was he right! After just a few notes, the crowd couldn’t help but surrender to the captivating sounds emanating from Roosevelt’s pedal steel guitar. Matt’s Hammond B-3 with the pedal steel guitar is so warm it takes your soul to a heavenly place.

It was a great night. Getting to play music with some of my best friends, who happen to all be badasses!-Matt Slocum

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The band came in hot, quickly hopping into some high energy jams and trading off some tasty riffs. Kevin and Mark held down a fat, tight bottom anchor as Roosie’s pedal steel got the party started. Kevin is what every guitarist wants in a bassist. He’s a pocket player, but at the same time he’s far from “basic” by any stretch of the imagination. Mark locks in seamlessly with the rest of the band. When a set is so very improvised the drummer is the glue that holds it all together and Mark did just that, but not just that, as a musician he helped listen and lead everyone.

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Earlier that day at lunch, Roosevelt emphasized that if I wanted to learn more about the guitar, I need to watch Rick Lollar. “When Jimmy Herring smiles when you play guitar, you know you’re doing something right” he said of Lollar with a serious grin on his face. Rick’s theoretical knowledge and technical skills are superb, but more importantly he understands where the role of a guitar fits into a band, a problem even the best of guitarists struggle with sometimes. “Buddy” and “Soulful Hang” were two Lollar originals performed that night as well showing not just his guitar skills, but his sleek composition gifts as well.

The band played with patience and purpose even in the most improvised of passages.The interplay and musicianship is on another level, bar none. We could go on about their technical abilities, but at the end of the day their greatest attribute is listening to each other.

In an interview with Matt he told us that all the members backing Roosevelt are part of King Baby, a band that has become a new serious endeavor after a successful headlining date at a blues festival in Bangladesh. The band is currently working on an EP.

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The night felt like one big musical family reunion with Roosevelt calling up some old friends onto the stage. Tremaine De’Nard Young serenaded us with stellar blues chops, showing off his innate feel, deep emotional connection with the tunes. Tremaine is a certified expert. His strength comes in his ability to exploit subtleties in music– he’s not the kinda guy who’s just going to play you a lot of notes. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone play the blues like that in a long time. That was special and all I want to do is pick up a guitar and play the blues after seeing that.

When Dante Harmon joined the band on stage for “Is My Living in Vain,” the entire venue was converted to the Church of the Sacred Steel. This was yet another highlight of the night. Pedal Steels, two of them, trading 1s and 2s back and forth, patient, deliberate, purposeful. 

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Jeff Myers Photography

To close out the night invited Chris (sax) and Mike Wilson of Voodoo Visionary onstage for “Rampage” orginally by the white field Brothers. A perfect way to end a spiritual night in Georgia’s capital.

It’s not very often that you sit in with a guy and you can feel the raw energy of what he’s doing. It’s exciting being the guy coming in having no idea what’s going to be thrown at your feet and taking the ride to see where things go. We got funky. It was a pleasure sitting in with him and that band. He’s a real class act like no one else I’ve met in music.” – Mike Wilson, Guitar, Voodoo Visionary

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All In all, it was a night of musical family reunions. Roosevelt Collier and King Baby transformed Aisle 5 into a mega-church on Saturday night. Whether it was a Lollar original, a traditional church tune, or “Spankalee” by Herbie Hancock, the audience was treated to a wide variety of musical goodies. This was a great get-together of old friends who have been playing music together on-and-off for a decade. The sound not only reflected their experience and skill level, but also their ability to listen to each other, compliment and “talk” at just the right time. They took calculated musical risks and the rewards were grand. Roosevelt Collier’s playing is some of the most soulful out there on the live music scene. Be on the lookout for him in a city near you and stay tuned for more on the new King Baby EP.

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Special thanks to André Griffin for a great SBD recording and stellar sound during the show.

Ryan Swerdlin Photography

Jeff Myers Photography

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