Two of These Things are Not Like the Others: Suwannee Roots Revival

Suwannee Roots Revival continues the tradition of spectacular Americana, roots, folk, acoustic, bluegrass, newgrass, jamgrass, and similar music genres. One look at the lineup below lets you know that the very best exponents of those styles will be entertaining you in the gorgeous woods of the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. this coming weekend (October 12-15).

But, to paraphrase a popular Sesame Street routine, two of these things are not like the others. Which further highlights the diversity that this fall classic festival (and its precursor) have always presented.

So, which two?

The Lee Boys, those amazing proponents of sacred steel from Miami, have graced almost every kind of festival at Live Oak. Their ebullient, uplifting performances speak to everyone, a beautiful blend of gospel and funk that defies you not to get up and, as Derrick Lee always requests, “Show me what you’re working with!”

The Lee Boys
Earl “Big Easy” Walker & Al Cordy

This band was built to bring the funk. In the back line, Alvin Cordy, Jr., is a monster on bass and a great vocalist as well, and he teams with the incredible Earl “Big Easy” Walker on drums. Their power propels this machine. Al Lee is a great guitarist and band leader, but he is happy to defer to the pedal steel chair. And that chair is currently occupied by Chris Johnson, another in a line of phenomenal players who have graced that position.

Chris Johnson of The Lee Boys

And then there are two more Lee Boys who handle the singing. Derrick Lee is a great vocalist and fabulous cheerleader, exhorting the crowd every time he hits the stage. But even Derrick will freely admit that the “special sauce” of The Lee Boys is his brother Keith. You will never see a man more filled with the spirit than Keith Lee, a true force of nature.

Derrick Lee
Keith Lee

And then you have Mother’s Finest. Chances are you don’t really know anything about them. If you do, then you know you’ll be on the rail. Here’s why.

It was either 1979 or 1980 when Patricia told me, “You’ve GOT to come see this band!” She was talking about Mother’s Finest, one of the greatest R&B/funk bands of all time with equal ability to rock your socks — and everything else — off, although they certainly never received the attention they deserved here in the States, although their albums did go gold. This Atlanta juggernaut flat-out blew you over with their exuberant shows, stunning music, and electrifying vocals. They have a huge presence in Europe, where they play often to adoring crowds.

The 2014 lineup included four original members of the band: Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy, vocals; Glenn “Doc” Murdock, vocals; Jerry “Wyzard” Seay, bass; and Gary “Moses Mo” Moore, guitar. John “Red Devil” Hayes, guitar, has been with the band since the 1993 world tour. And there’s a lot to be said for nepotism in the music business, as Dion Derek Murdock is on drums; he has been with the band off and on for 20 years.

Come to think of it, sacred steel and funk R&B ARE Americana roots! Do yourself a favor and check them out! The Lee Boys play Friday the 13th at 6:45 on the Porch Stage. Mother’s Finest plays at 10:00 that evening on the Amphitheater Stage.

The Lee Boys
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Mother’s Finest
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