Oteil & the Lee Boys open up Rocktober in Memphis


Oteil & the Peacemakers/the Lee Boys
The Gibson Lounge
Memphis, Tennessee
October 5, 2007

Memphis as a concert market is hit or miss; sometimes there are shows, and sometimes the calendar’s blank for weeks on end.  And, when there ARE good concerts, sometimes there’s a good crowd, and other times bands play to empty rooms.  This October has been packed, with Robert Randolph, Rose Hill Drive, the Disco Biscuits, Gov’t Mule, Michael Franti, and the Black Crowes all scheduled within three weeks.  It all kicked off with Oteil and the Peacemakers and the Lee Boys. 

When Oteil & the Peacemakers and the Lee Boys last came to Memphis they played to a packed Gibson Lounge crowd…however, Jimmy Herring was also a guest member of the Peacemakers that night.  The crowd was decidedly smaller when the same bill, sans Jimmy Herring, came to town the first weekend of October, but the quality of the show was the same.

The Lee Boys opened once again, and played a fairly strong opening set.  While Robert Randolph has crossed over to the mainstream and gradually altered his sound to a more public-friendly pop/rock style, the Lee Boys are firmly rooted in traditional sacred steel.  Roosevelt Collier is an amazing player, every bit the equal of Randolph. 



On "Joyful Sounds" he was nothing short of amazing, and their take on "When The Saints Go Marching In" was great.  However, after about 35 minutes, their music started to get a little repetitious.  However, their quirky yet fun take on Julian Lennon’s "Too Late For Goodbyes" was an unexpected cover, and across the board, it was a good set.

oteil_071005_a.jpgOteil and company opened their set with a strong take on "Lovelight," and followed it up with a great version of "No More Doubt," before really getting the crowd into the show with a stellar version of Bob Marley’s "Natural Mystic."  Oteil’s vocals have always been an underrated part of his game, and he really delivers.

 As underrated as Oteil’s vocals are, the band as a whole is one of the hidden gems of the music world.  Of all the Allman Brothers Band "side projects," the Peacemakers are the least heralded, and perhaps the most talented man for man.  They have gradually expanded their repertoire and are a model of versatility – no longer just a jazz/funk quartet, they throw all genres into the mix.  Their take on Hank Williams’ "Kawliga" is a welcome pace-changer.

Oteil showed off his scatting abilities, echoing his bass riffs during an effect-drenched "Hit The Hay," which featured another underrated component of the band, guitarist Mark Kimbrall, who absolutely tore apart his axe like he does on a nightly basis.

Drummer Chris Fryar took over lead vocal duties on a sizzling take on Tower of Power’s "What Is Hp," and followed it up with a pair of "colorful" choices – "Blue Eyed Savior" and "Green Eyed Lady," the latter of which was stamped by Kimbrall’s frenetic jazz guitar.  He also put his mark on "Payday," his screeching stringwork drawing a huge grin from Oteil right before the bassist threw down his own nasty funk.

After the instrumental "Tubby," things slowed down considerably with "Sweet Lord," and then quickly sped back up with "Got Me Floatin’" and "Pull Together."  It was a mildly disjointed section of the show, but by that point, the crowd didn’t care. 




The Peacemakers called up their soundman, Penn Robertson, for lead vocals on Sly Stone’s "Sing A Simple Song," and he did a more than admirable job; his voice is a little like former vocalist Paul Henson.  The band made their way through the number, added a little free-form jam to the end, and then wrapped the evening up with "Church Groove."

The Peacemakers are a band that people seem to either love or hate, and for those that love them, the Memphis show was definitely a great night.