The most inspired husband-wife team in roots music since Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks joined forces to form the Tedeschi Trucks Band and made a Grammy Best Blues Album winning record last year (Revelator) in their backyard studio in the Northeast Florida swamp. The next was to take this eleven-piece dream band on the road, and just as The Derek Trucks Band quickly followed up Already Free with the double-disc Roadsongs, TTB follows up Revelator less than a year later with the 2-platter, 106-minute Everybody’s Talkin’.
With only four tracks carried over Revelator and introducing a new song — “Nobody’s Free” — Everybody’s Talkin’ is much more than some live rendition of a studio album. Leveraging the deep, full sound of a seasoned touring band replete with two drummers, a horn section of male backup singers of lead vocal caliber, this rock ‘n’ soul orchestra never sounds too cluttered or overwrought. That’s to say, the arrangements are tight, and they aren’t always the same you hear them on the originals; the horn blasts doubling on the guitar riff and the addition of a sax solo on the gritty funk-rock tune “Learn How To Love,” for instance.
A survey of the mostly dusty, neglected covers chosen for this collection and brought to life again promotes the notion that all the great music came before 1975. There’s The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darling Be Home Soon” given a soulful reading by Tedeschi and bolstered by Sunday morning backup vocals by Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers. Stevie Wonder’s early hit “Uptight,” with its Motown backbeat and exultant horns, becomes spotlight for trumpeter Maurice Brown, a scat-along bassplaying Oteil Burnbridge, and the double drum soling of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell. The band takes ownership song that the album is titled after (YouTube of recent performance below), injecting a Memphis flair to Fred Neil’s original and a husky vocal from Tedeschi that’s more invested than even Harry Nilsson’s version. “That Did It,” sprinting to the finish at just under eight minutes, finds Tedeschi doing her bread-and-butter blues belting.
“Nobody’s Free” is one of those sprawling, blues/rock/funk/jazz numbers that reaches its peak with keyboardist Kofi Burbridge picking up a flute and fluttering away over a loose, jazzy underpinning.
The quartet of Revelator tunes chosen for the stage treatment are good choices: the gospel-soul “Bound For Glory” is a salute to all that is great about Bonnie Raitt. Here you’ll find many little things that adds pizzazz to the song, such as the bass line from Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” sneaks into the song just before Trucks breaks loose on one of his trademark slide explosions. “Learn How To Love” features a knock-down drag-out dueling guitar solos by Mr. and Mrs. Trucks. The sweet, classic sounding “Midnight In Harlem,” arguably the best selection on Revelator, is preceded by one of Trucks’ famous Indian raga ruminations that grafts in a part of the Allmans’ “Little Martha.”
And speaking of Eat A Peach with its two vinyl sides of forever jams, there’s only eleven songs spanning across Everybody’s Talkin’‘s two discs, with six of them running over ten minutes. Songs, like “Uptight,” for instance, often go off into extended instrumental excursions. That’s no criticism — these musicians have the chops to let it all hang out, so why not give the public their whole package — but for these not accustomed to hearing songs veering off into Improvisation Land and staying a spell, it can test their attention span.
Then again, the intended audience are for those who revel in that, the same kind of people who drank it all in during the heyday of The Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers (with which the TTB share two members) and Canned Heat. There are many newer bands out there that can keep that kind of vibe going but none can match the total firepower of the Tedeschi Trucks Band and more than any studio album can do, Everybody’s Talkin’ attests to that.
Everybody’s Talkin’ becomes available for sale May 22 on the Sony Masterworks label.