One Track Mind: Tedeschi Trucks Band, "Midnight in Harlem" (2011)

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“Midnight in Harlem” is the sweet-swaying centerpiece of an all-you-can-eat buffet of deep-fried delights called Revelator. Performed by a new 11-person collective of groovers, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is led by Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks and spouse Susan Tedeschi — herself a noted picker and singer.

Sounding something like a female Otis Redding, Tedeschi takes charge from the start on “Harlem,” a soulful Dixie beer-soaked left turn on an album best described as a memorable combination of The Meters, The Band and some ass-kicking bar band from a chicken-wire roadhouse. Here, we instead find a fully realized passion being celebrated: “He was born to love me,” Tedeschi sings, “and I was raised to be his fool.” Derek Trucks’ carefully wrought lines are as tender as a lover’s next-morning note.

It’s surprising, in a way. You knew, if you knew anything at all about these two, of their shared sense of imaginative free-form improvisation. There are doors clanging around in the parking lot outside of every venue either Tedeschi or Trucks has played in the last decade. What this song definitively confirms is that their virtuosity isn’t limited to showing off their playing chops in the live setting. They are complete musicians, talents who can write, arrange and produce just as effectively inside the quiet constrictions of a studio, inside the tender moments of a relationship.

“Midnight in Harlem,” quietly effective yet stunningly resonant, illustrates where the Tedeschi Trucks Band can go, as true songwriters — songwriters with face-blistering talents at their instruments, but songwriters just the same. That is to say, they can go just about anywhere they please. They are funkier elsewhere on Revelator, harder, more direct. But I’m not sure they are ever better.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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