Personnel: Alvin Cordy, Jr. (vocals, bass guitar, background vocals); Derrick Lee, Keith Lee (vocals, background vocals); Matt Grondin (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, background vocals); Alvin Lee (electric guitar, background vocals); Jason Mingledorff (tenor saxophone); Barney Floyd, Brian Graber (trumpet); Mark Mullins (trombone); Matt Slocum (piano, organ, keyboards); Earl Walker (drums); Nate Werth (percussion); Gia Wyre (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Matt Grondin.
Recording information: Carriage House Studios, Stamford, CT; City of Progress, Miami, FL; Dockside Studio, Maurice, LA; Retrophonics Studios, St. Augustine, FL; The Music Shed, New Orleans, LA; The Parlor Recording Studio, New Orleans, LA; Tree Sound Studios, Atlanta, GA.
Photographers: Edwin Cardona; Debbie Crawford.
Arrangers: Matt Grondin; Earl Walker; Alvin Lee ; Emanuel Roosevelt Collier; Alvin Cordy, Jr.
The Lee Boys come from Miami, where they grew up in the Pentecostal House of God church that gave birth to the sacred steel tradition. Pedal steel guitar takes center stage in this family band's arrangements, but the style of playing owes very little to country steel or even Hawaiian slide guitar, the traditions that gave birth to the steel guitar. When combined with the fierce lead vocals of Derrick and Keith Lee, and the sanctified backing voices of guitarist Alvin Lee and bass player Alvin Cordy, Jr., you have music that'll have even non-believers hollering "Amen!" Testify opens on a deceptively sedate note with "Smile," a celebration of staying positive in the face of trouble. It suggests the early songs of Stevie Wonder; Roosevelt Collier's steel purrs like a kitten, but you can sense the lion lurking just under the surface. The group takes off on "Going to Glory" and doesn't let up for the next six tracks, with blistering steel and the rhythm section of Cordy's bass and Earl Walker's drum driving the band's powerful vocals. On the traditional "I'm Not Tired," a variation of "Motherless Children," they bring in some New Orleans funk; "Always by My Side" and the title track are straightforward R&B-fueled funk. Collier's steel is powerful throughout, growling like a wrathful avenging spirit and soaring like a soul set free from the confines of this sinful earthly existence. The album closes with four meditative tunes: "Wade in the Water" is a slow-burning number that plays guest Gia Wyre's lead vocal off Alvin Lee's stinging lead guitar; "Praise You" suggests the funk of Earth, Wind and Fire; "Feel the Music" rides a quiet R&B groove and gives Collier a chance to lay out before things wrap up with "We Need to Hear from You," an Andraé Crouch tune taken at a slow, soulful pace. ~ j. poet