Roosevelt Collier, the pedal steel player from the Lee Boys, and Andy Hall, the dobroist for The Infamous Stringdusters, forged a friendship aboard the Jam Cruise in 2012. Since then, they’ve managed to play together occasionally when their schedules aligned. The relationship grew and has finally borne fruit, in the form of their new release, Let the Steel Play.
Collier was born into the church music of the sacred steel tradition while Hall’s life has been steeped in the roots of bluegrass. Different musical worlds bridged by steel strings and glass slides. The resulting sound is a perfect blend of the heavenly and the down home, a religious experience happening casually from the porch of a country home.
The set opens with “This Little Light of Mine,” a tune familiar to both gospel and bluegrass. It serves as the perfect introduction to the unique blended traditions present throughout. The melody flips back and forth between the two instruments flawlessly. Their version is wordless, but by the end you’ll surely be singing along, “This little steel of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” And shine they do.
The album borrows from the rich traditions of both players with their takes on some more old traditional tunes, like the stunning beauty “Maiden’s Prayer,” a bopping run through “Reuben’s Train” and the spirited “Power in the Blood.” They also try their hands at a more modern classic with a version of The Grateful Dead’s “Crazy Fingers” that will steel your face right off of your head.
Interspersed with the traditionals, the album includes a handful of original tunes the pair wrote specifically for this outing. Collier’s steel sounds almost organ-like on the fun “Rosebud,” while “Remington” is a great ‘newgrass’ tune where the part of fiddle is played by a pedal steel. It would be a surprising head turner were it not already in the context of this album. “The Darkest Hour” gets more deliberate and less freewheeling in a fairly sinister sounding turn. As an added bonus, the album closes with a three-way steel stringed jam, with Greensky Bluegrass’s Anders Beck joining the duo on another dobro. A thorough exploration by two masters of their craft, this album is certainly a must listen for any pedal steel or dobro fan.
Key tracks: Reuben’s Train, The Darkest Hour, Rosebud