Trail Mix – Andy Hall & Roosevelt Collier

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I have been a fan of Andy Hall for a long, long time. He’s one of those musicians that, on a regular basis, blows my mind with his playing.

Take a minute and listen to his dobro work with The Infamous Stringdusters. If you aren’t struck dumb, you just aren’t listening.

Last week, Hall and Roosevelt Collier, of The Lee Boys, released Let The Steel Play, a collection of ten tunes the explore the sonic collision between sacred steel and bluegrass.

Included on the record are stunning originals, like “Remington,” which is featured on this month’s Trail Mix, and “Colfax Boogie,” which the duo co-wrote with Anders Beck, dobro player from jamgrassers Greensky Bluegrass, along with traditionals like “This Little Light Of Mine” and “Reuben’s Train.” The pair even dabbles with the Dead on “Crazy Fingers.”

Hall and Roosevelt come from separate worlds, but their playing and inspiration mesh seamlessly on Let The Steel Play.

Andy was kind enough to tackle some questions from me about working with Roosevelt and creating this new record.

BRO – Tell me about how this collaboration developed.

AH – Roosevelt and i met on Jam Cruise in 2013. Lap slide players always seem to seek each other out since the instrument is sort of unusual. That year we sat in on each other’s sets and became fast friends. I’ve heard so much slide music, but hearing Roosevelt was something really fresh and inspiring to me.

BRO – How quickly did you find common ground musically?

AH – You know, we have common ground through some of the traditional music we both know. Both bluegrass and gospel music have some common tunes, like “This Little Light Of Mine,” which is the first track on the record. But we also have these more modern influences we share, like the Allman Brothers for instance. Plus just the slide guitar mentality is really a thing. It’s hard to describe.

BRO – Did you take a turn on his steel? If so, how did it go?

AH – Ha! No way! Actually, he used my lap steel and didn’t play and pedal steel on the record. That’s the thing about Roosevelt is that he can play anything slide. Any tuning. It’s pretty amazing. We used dobros, lap steels, a Weissenborn, and my 1929 National square neck tri cone. A lot of very cool sounds.

BRO – How did you and Roosevelt approach songwriting together?

AH – Writing for this was totally fun and easy and not like anything else I’ve ever done. It was really riff based. We’d come up with a riff, start jamming on it, and see where it would go and what it needed. Roosevelt  has this amazing way he can play bass lines on the lap steel, which was a huge asset. The tunes came together really fast. A few we even wrote in the studio, We’d finish a tune and then say, “Alright, now what?” And then we’d make up another tune.

BRO – The jam sessions not caught on tape. Were they as sick as I imagine?

AH – The jams are so fun with us. But, honestly, we haven’t had a lot of spare time to jam. Most of our time has been spent making up the songs and jamming on stage. Roosevelt and I really have a connection and the music flows easy. To play with him is an honor.

Andy is out on the road with The Infamous Stringdusters and and Roosevelt is heading to Europe with Bokante in early July, so catching this dynamic slide duo together is a tricky proposition.  In the meantime, catch up with the Dusters or Bokante when they take to a stage near you.

Be sure to listen to “Remington,” along with great tracks from Molly Tuttle, Banditos, and Jon Stickley Trio on this month’s Trail Mix.

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