Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator (2011)

Photo: James Minchin

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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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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    MORE FROM AROUND THE WATERCOOLER AT THE SOMETHING ELSE! TOWERS …

    S. VICTOR AARON: In putting together this review, I got to thinking about other great husband-wife teams in music. Offhand, I can think of Delaney and Bonnie, Sonny and Cher and John and Yoko. Not sure how great these pairs really were, but they had their moments. Who do you think were some of the best?

    MARK SALESKI: Richard and Linda Thompson. Johnny Cash and June Carter.

    NICK DERISO: Ike and Tina Turner. And Ike would’ve kicked your ass for forgetting him, were he still around to kick ass. And were you named Tina Turner.

    SALESKI: I have to admit, I never really liked that version of “Proud Mary.”

    DERISO: Their version of ‘Proud Mary,’ it’s true, is a little too showbiz. But they really did a number on Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.” And their early stuff was so much harder than anything Motown attempted. That really was a great team, at least on the albums.

    SALESKI: Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, though to most people she’s pretty obscure. Waits for that matter too.

    DERISO: Off the beaten path, there’s also Sam Phillips and T Bone Burnett.

    SALESKI: Buddy and Julie Miller.

    DERISO: Lots of interesting combinations in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Brown. Also, John and Alice Coltrane. Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott. Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln. Kenny G and his Hair. OK, one of those isn’t right.

    AARON: I often forget Ella and Ray Brown were married, probably because they maintained their separate careers. But certainly, that was a union of a legendary jazz vocalist with a legendary jazz bassist. On the whack jazz side, I’ve come to admire the collaborative work of pianist Satoko Fujii and her husband, the trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. Both are top notch composers and brilliant musicians and band leaders.

    DERISO: There’s the couple from Arcade Fire.

    TOM JOHNSON: Paul and Linda McCartney, though I’m not sure how much of it was really her input. But she was there!

    DERISO: Paul and Linda did have a (air-quotes) co-written No. 1 hit in “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” — McCartney’s first post-Beatles charttopper — though it’s always been hard to divine just what the Mrs. contributed. After ‘Ram’ came out in the early 1970s, I remember George Martin commenting, in that dry British way, “I don’t think Linda is any substitute for John Lennon.” I know, right?

    AARON: Even Linda’s own album sounded like a homemade Paul record with female lead vocals.

    DERISO: James Taylor and Carly Simon, if only for their ear-worm 1970s single “Mockingbird,” a cover that I wanted to hate more than I ever could back then. After all, the beginning is like a demented high school cheer — MOCK! (yeah!) ING! (yeah!) BIRD! (yeah!) YEAH! (yeah!). But then, they start in with that whoa-oh-oh business. And that over-the-top strip-club sax comes flying in. And I’m stuck … for the rest of the day … “if that diamond ring won’t shine …”

    AARON: John and Christine McVie. ABBA!

    DERISO: But top five? Would have to include the Cashes — I think, first — as well as the Thompsons and the Turners. Yoko certainly sparked some interesting things in Lennon, not least of which was sparking interest from the media simply because you laid around for a week in a bed at a Canadian hotel. Nice work if you can get it, right? Also, Ella and Ray, and Bonnie and Delaney.