The pedal-steel guitar the Lee Boys use in their Southern blues started as a tool of worship in the House of God Church. It's used to drive parishioners to dance in a thanksgiving ritual to God. The so-called sacred steel's sound resembles that of a regular six-string guitar played with a slide, but pedal steel is played sitting down, the instrument set up like a keyboard.
When the Perrine-based, six-member Lee Boys play their gospel-born blues outside the church circle, audiences' reactions are the same, independent of religious affiliation or a search for transcendence.
"When you're going full-speed, when you look back at the audience, it looks like they're in a trance," vocalist Derrick Lee says. "It's something that happens when you put that steel bar on those strings. It really adds a different element to your music."
Although their music is church-made, the Lee Boys take the sacred-steel tradition to a more-mainstream audience. Lee says the instrument's sound, especially in church, sends listeners "into a frenzy."
"Sometimes, when you're giving God thanks, you just feel like dancing," he says.
A band of nephews and cousins, the Lee Boys gained popularity at jam-rock festivals in 2008, when a show in New York brought them onstage with Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers. Since then, the Boys' friendship with Haynes, Derek Trucks and other Southern blues-rock players have landed them countless festival gigs and made steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier a coveted sit-in for most of those friendly acts.
At Bear Creek Music Festival in Live Oak earlier this month, Collier played with 19 bands on the lineup, because "everybody wants a piece of Roosevelt," Lee says.
Now, in between the band's frequent tours, Collier plays regularly at South Florida clubs. Every Wednesday, he's at Bardot in Miami with the Roosevelt Collier Trio, which includes his cousin and Lee Boys drummer Earl Walker.
Lee, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, says four of the band's members have moved out of Miami, and the distance makes it easier to tour than to play local shows together.
While the Lee Boys clearly make worship music — their new album, "Testify," includes the songs "Praise You" and "Going to Glory" — Collier's club shows are instrument-driven and free of his family band's gospel lyrics.
But his sacred steel, even accompanied by strident brass from guest musicians, makes Collier's solo act a hypnotic blues jam that even gets the least-musical audience members staring at his hands as they slide and pluck the strings over his lap.
"If you hear Roosevelt play, it sounds like someone crying or singing," Lee says. "It is a religious thing, there's no getting away from it."
The Lee Boys
When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
Where: The Funky Biscuit, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton
Contact: 561-395-2929 or FunkyBiscuit.com