Review: Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator
by S. Victor Aaron
Ever since Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi married in 2001, the two have frequently contributed to each other projects and performed together. But through (and likely because of) the rigors of The Allman Brothers, The Derek Trucks Band, Tedeschi’s own band, and the rigors of raising two kids, they never fully consummated their musical marriage. That is, until now.
Tedeschi, a pretty good guitar player and a phenomenal singer and Trucks, a great guitar player and an all-world slide specialist, finally join forces full time to form a band that from the mere mention of its existence already becomes one of the premier roots rock bands in the land. Culling together members of the Derek Trucks Band, the Allman Brothers Band and elsewhere, the eleven member Tedeschi Trucks Band is a grand collection of backup singers, horn players, a rhythm section, and, at the core, Trucks and Tedeschi.
Thus, Revelator, released this past June, isn’t whole new music by a whole new band. If anything, it continues along the path the Derek Trucks Band has been taking from its jam band beginning toward concise, well-defined blues-kissed, gospel inflected soul songs, which incidentally, is right in Tedeschi’s bailiwick. It’s just that kind of sharpened concept that earned Already Free the accolades and a Grammy, but this time, there’s the added benefit of Tedeschi’s soul-stirring belting to carry out the lyrics.
With most of these fresh twelve songs written by Tedeschi, Trucks and at least one of collaborator, the material matches the musicianship, something that wasn’t always the case on earlier Trucks records before Free. It’s easy to mistakenly think that cuts like “Come See About Me,” “Don’t Let Me Slide” or the church inspired “Bound For Glory” were lifted from Delaney And Bonnie, Little Feat or classic-era Allmans, but no, these are “new” old classics. The vintage feel is helped along by the delicate engineering work of Grammy winner Jim Scott, who placed the horns and backing vocals in their own space, not competing with the co-leaders. He also produced the record along with Trucks, and together they made this big band sound uncluttered and nimble.
Tedeschi and Trucks form a formidable one-two punch on many of these tracks. After Susan’s pipes melts your heart, Derek’s super tasty slide licks can make you cry, as on the Memphis slow burner “Midnight In Harlem” and the soaring ballad “Until You Remember.” Just as the middle of the record threatens to get too soft, the band roars back with a hungry Hendrix styled rocker “Learn To Love”, and “Love Was Something Else To Say” has just about every player putting in their shiny two cents: Mike Mattison and David Ryan Harris get in some lead soulful vocal spots, drummer J.J. Johnson, Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and his brother Kofi (on clavinet and Hammond B3) combine for a frightening funky rhythm train. Even Tedeschi has a go at it on her guitar, sparring with saxophonist Kebbi Williams. “These Walls” greets you with the serene, distinctly East Indian sounds of a sarod and tabla, a welcome carryover from the spiritual side of the Derek Trucks Band.
Loosely performed yet well-crafted and captured, Revelator could have been mistaken for some long lost early era Bonnie Raitt record backed by Muscle Shoals finest musicians. Holy matrimony never sounded so heavenly.
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