If you’ve been watching Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi slow cook the “soul stew” over the last couple of years you might have found yourself wondering “is it soup yet?”. The answer – in the form of the first official Tedeschi Trucks Band album titled “Revelator” – is a resounding YES! The couple having already taken matrimonial vows in 2001 now seals the deal musically as well.
To those following the story from even a periphery view it comes as no real revelation. Derek and Susan have made high profile joint appearances in both Crossroads Festival DVD’s playing a mix of music that included covers of tunes associated with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (“Coming Home”), its subsequent entourage Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen (“Space Captain”), as well as Clapton’s Derek and The Dominoes (“Anyday”). Each of those projects featured a loose amalgamation of many of the same musicians (Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Leon Russell, Jim Price). They burned bright and hot for a short period of time in the late 1960’s and early 70’s but imploded quickly. In all the best ways The Tedeschi Trucks Band fulfills the promise of those short lived groups by bringing together a pool of talent from both Susan and Derek’s solo groups, along with an expansive group of “friends” that includes John Leventhal, Eric Krasno of Soulive, Doyle Bramhall II, vocalist Ryan Shaw (a personal fave), Gary Louris (Jayhawks), and many others.
WHAT IT IS… A FUNKY AND LOWDOWN BEAT
Though calling a musical amalgamation a “gumbo” has become cliche, TTB has created a sonic menu with no better descriptor where all the influences meld perfectly. There’s a good deal of savory N’Orleans flavor throughout. The album opener “Come See About Me” grabs your attention with a head turning snare snap and deep funk Meters-esque groove. “Love Has Something Else To Say” percolates along on hammond organ chug and choke before evolving into a guitar versus horn duel.
“Until You Remember”, opens with an elegiac “first line” horn section then slips into classic R&B style reminiscent of Bert Berns and Jerry Ragavoy. A song you might expect to find in the late Garnett Mimms’ catalog. It has become a repeated listening favorite of mine. Though reverential in style, authors Susan and Derek along with John Leventhal, avoid slavish adherence to form with a sly and unexpected change of chord work that lifts the choruses and gives Derek a wonderful bed to solo over. I would love to hear what this one sounds like on stage.
The heartfelt “Midnight in Harlem” will be familiar to those who’ve seen the “Crossroads 2010” DVD where it got sneaked peeked live. Co-authored by Truck’s Band vocalist Mike Matisson and Derek, it’s a gem of a tune carried along by a languid chord progression over which Derek lays out some beautiful slide guitar sure to make Allman’s fans smile.
In a musical genre steeped in swagger Susan admirably holds down the vocal spot with strong leads that declaim, exclaim, and sometimes maim with honesty – just “tell the truth”. She’s not shy to get down in “jock rock” territory by wrestling “Learn How To Love’s” monster riff and rusty, primordial, slide guitar. This tune evokes nothing short of Jimmy Page on a ‘gator hunt with the cast of “Swamp People”; something you might expect to hear Paul Rogers or Steve Marriot belt. “Choot ‘em” indeed. The softer side is shown on tunes like album closer “Shelter” which simultaneously channels The Band, Billy Preston era Beatles, and All Things Must Pass era George Harrison. Are those all the same thing?
Sidestepping the pitfall of creating an homage to another time and place Jim Scott’s co-production (with Trucks) keeps the sound solid, up close and personal, and most importantly modern. The only extraneous track is the late album jam called “Shrimp and Grits” which I suppose is meant to serve as an aural palette cleanser. Otherwise this a rock solid – one great song after another – record that proves the confederation of these bands into an 11 piece juggernaut to be a brilliant decision.
What’s missing? Where the hell is a take of “John The Revelator” as teasingly promised by the title.
SKELETONPETE SAYS –
The Tedeschi Trucks Band debut “Revelator” is released June 7, 2011 on the Sony Masterworks imprint. My personal recommendation is buy it immediately. I believe it will it continue to reveal secrets and find its way onto your playlists for years to come just like the classic records these players clearly revere.