Roosevelt Collier’s Exit 16 in stores Friday, 3/9

The well-known pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier releases his first solo album on Friday. Collier says, “This record is a record about me. It’s telling a story of who I am, where I’m from and where I’m going.”

On the record, which is called Exit 16 after his hometown exit off the Florida turnpike, Collier plays both pedal and lap steel guitars. Bassist Michael League of Snarky Puppy (who also produced the album), drummer JT Thomas, and organist Bobby Sparks join him on the album.

Collier first came to my attention playing with the Lee Boys. Their style of “sacred steel” is a unique tradition of the House of God congregation and features fervently evocative fretwork that evokes the transcendent experience of gospel music through high-energy guitar work.

As a solo performer, Collier is now a sought-after talent both on record and on stage, performing alongside musical luminaries in rock, blues, and pop. Some of his many collaborators include the Allman Brothers, the String Cheese Incident, Buddy Guy, Los Lobos, Robert Randolph, and the Del McCoury Band.

Exit 16 is all over the map reflecting both his roots and the music of many of the musicians he has performed and recorded with while remaining entirely his own. Collier calls it, “dirty funk swampy grime.”

The lead off song, “Sun Up Sun Down” gets the record off to a funky start. The guitar sings out with a crying line recalling his early work in the church while the rhythm section leaves plenty of space for his more contemporary solos to shine.

The long tones on the first cut give way to quick picking on “Happy Feet.” Collier’s guitar strides along as the organ pulses in and out before giving way to a bluesy solo. By the time you get to the feedback intro, fat chords, and scorched leads of the final cut, “Spike,” Collier and his bandmates have taken the listener on a journey rooted in his hometown but stretched across the world.

I’ll give Collier the last word. “My mission is to touch and heal people through music,” he says. “That’s always been my mission, whether it’s in the church or in a club. I think people feel better about themselves after I play.”

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