The Lee Boys/Anders Osborne
Pictures by Amy Castaldo and Joe Davidson
Words by Joe Davidson
Skipper’s Smokehouse Tampa, Fl July 30, 2010
As we prepared to run the gauntlet of Friday afternoon rush hour traffic on I-275 in the Tampa metro area, the anticipation started to grow. A wave of excitement hit me as we got off the freeway and headed towards the venue. Between summer classes and a college student’s budget I’ve been on a three month dry spell, not going to a show since Smilefest in May. I was pumped up and ready, knowing that it was going to be a great night of music.
I pulled into the venue and parked the car, ready to do my normal stretch routine, and was greeted with a wall of Florida humidity as I opened the door. I looked at Amy and said, “It’s going to be a three t-shirt kind of night.” (As a native Floridian I’ve learned to pack a few extras no matter where I’m going.) We walked up to the entrance of Skipper’s and made our way inside the gate. The venue area was very welcoming at first sight. With a collection of hand-painted murals, posters of signature dishes, an aroma of fresh Florida cuisine, and an intimate stage, Skipper’s Smokehouse is a live music and food lover’s paradise. As I walked to the back fence of the property, I was immediately drawn to a painting of Jerry and froze the minute I saw it. It was incredible. I waved over to Amy to come check it out and she had a look of awe as she approached. We sat down next to it as sound check was starting and sat back to admire our situation.
The Lee Boys hit the stage at 8 o’clock and wasted no time starting out with their high energy “Praise You”. There were only a couple dozen people watching at the beginning of the set; a few people at the bar, some folks sitting down in the shade, and a dreadlocked girl dancing away at the front of the floor. As the band transitioned into the second song more and more people came spilling out of the restaurant and into the stage area. The dominant presence of Roosevelt Collier’s steel pedal guitar was perfectly complimented with a funky foundation laid down by the rest of the band. Collier seems to conduct a dialogue with his brothers and cousins on stage with copious amounts of musical intellect. Another great highlight of the set was the skill displayed by bassist Alvin Cordy. I remember taking my eye away from the viewfinder of my camera and just watching him in awe as he went to town on his 7-String. The seasoned touch of guitarist Alvin Lee was apparent during a cover of “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” from The Blues Brothers soundtrack. He laid down a perfect accent to Collier’s playing stepping up for a lead riff and gracefully backing down to rhythm. The infectious drumbeats from Earl Walker pounded throughout the entire set. I was very impressed to see that he crafted unique fills and high hat triplets to break free of the monotony that I’ve encountered in other “sacred steel” drummers. Derrick Lee’s soulful vocals were displayed during a cover of “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder. Song after song he appeared to give every bit of himself into that microphone. As the sun began to set, the true essence of a family unit was displayed when the band was joined by AJ Lee (8) and Keith Lee II (4), both sons of guitarist Alvin Lee. The boys were jumping around onstage with their unplugged mini-guitars having the time of their lives. This gave the crowd a boost as we were all about to succumb to heat exhaustion. The kids went backstage after the song was finished and rejoined the band for the encore to the full capacity crowd.
After the encore song, Amy and I headed up to the front of the restaurant to escape the swampy conditions at the stage. As we sat down to rest our legs, we saw The Lee Boys packing up their equipment. We chatted with Derrick and Alvin C. and got some pictures. One thing I’ve always loved about these men is that they’re deeply humble. They appreciate the gifts they have been blessed with and it shows in their genuine kindness and character. As we wrapped up our conversations, we saw a white cargo van pull up to the loading area in a hurry. It was Anders Osborne and his band mates arriving just in the nick of time to begin their show.
As Anders Osborne and his band took the stage, I felt a rush of energy sweep through the crowd, as if they knew something that I didn’t. I had listened to a few studio tracks from the group but I had no idea of what I was about to experience. The trio came out with a confident tone, not so much cocky but comfortable. The band hit hard from the start. The crunchy tone of Osborne’s Fender Strat was comfort to my ears. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for blues guitar, so I felt right at home. The best way to describe their live show is orchestrated jams. Osborne has so much control over his guitar that he could stay true to the progression of the song while running up and down the fretboard with an array of classic licks and turnarounds blended with his own unique style. Bass guitarist Carl Dufrene was right on point all night. It’s easy for the bass to become boring playing 12 Bar Blues but with abstract variations in song structure the chemistry between the guitar and bass was incredible. Drummer Eric Bolivar understood his role perfectly. I notice a lot of drummers overpower the song they’re playing trying to stand out but this guy was perfectly tuned into his two comrades. Halfway through the set as the previous song, “Stoned Drunk and Naked” was still fading out; Anders looked up at the crowd and arose with a friendly smirk. The rugged mystique of his face between his steady eyes and his colossal, sweat drenched beard perfectly captured the feeling everyone was sharing: raw energy. Osborne then slowed things down a little bit with some dialogue about being on the road and feeling homesick and dedicated a song to his girl back home in New Orleans. He continued to comment about the muggy weather and how it reminded him of home. The band played a few more tracks and headed out in the same fashion they arrived.
As our night came to a close, Amy and I packed up our gear and began the journey back to Ocala. I feel completely rejuvenated spending a night doing what I love. I couldn’t imagine a better place or better people to surround myself with as I jumped back into my element.
The Lee Boys have recently released an album with The Travelin’ McCourys titled “Meeting in the Middle” and are currently collaborating with renowned New Orleans guitarist Matt Grondin. For more information including upcoming tour dates visit www.leeboys.com
Anders Osborne is currently on tour supporting his new album “American Patchwork.” For more info, visit www.andersosborne.com