With the Grammy-winning debut Revelator and the double-disc modern-day Live At Fillmore East road epic Everybody’s Talkin’, the Tedeschi Trucks Band quickly established themselves as arguably the best seventies band four decades hence, and maybe there’s not even much arguing about that. In any event, Act III is already here with the imminent release of Made Up Mind, an album with a lot to live up to. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are way too experienced, talented and committed to let us down, aren’t they?
Of course, they are.
The plot for Made Up Mind isn’t much different than the one used for the Grammy-winning debut Revelator, nor does it need to be: Tedeschi and Trucks composed most of the tracks with pretty much the same rotating cast of third or fourth co-writers such as Doyle Bramhall III, Oliver Wood, John Leventhal and Soulive’s Eric Krasno. In spite of this being a huge, eleven-piece band, the first and only lineup change came prior to recording Made Up Mind when bassist Oteil Burbridge decamped to start a family. In his place, a rotating cast of session four string specialists like Pino Palladino and Dave Monsey filled in. The bass chair will be filled permanently in due time.
I’m of the opinion that TTB came out of the gate as a fully developed entity so there’s not that much room left for growth, but Made Up Mind sports several little refinements, just enough to assure us they’re not resting on their laurels.
Most of that comes in the song’s arrangements: instead of this being basically Tedeschi singing in front of a crack band, her imposing vocal gets better integrated into the band for Mind, her voice becoming a lead instrument alongside Trucks’. She finishes off a line on the simmering blues soul number “Do I Look Worried” and Kofi Burbridge’s B3 and the Mike Mattison/Mark Rivers backing choral harmonies add punctuation. The Stax-styled “Part of Me” finds Tedeschi sharing lyrics with trombonist Saunders Sermons, as part of lyric line dovetails nicely with bass line, and the gospel jubilation comes through unfettered on this buoyant song. She doubles her vocal lines with her guitar for a moment during “Whiskey Legs,” then trades tasty little licks with Trucks.
The supa-fonky “Misunderstood” is a mastery of syncopation, and Tedeschi sings with convincing frustration as she pouts “I might as well be misunderstood, you’re not hearing me so good.” “Made Up Mind” starts out as a straight up rock tune but slowly the RnB seeps in, with the horns and backing vocals. And then Trucks’ sinewy slide in the instrumental breaks seals the deal. The breezy “Idle Wind” featuring Burbridge on flute, is not a jazz song but is played with the litheness and cadence of a one.
The bass-heavy blues-rock tune “The Storm” is another highlight for both of the band’s namesakes, where Trucks alternately doubles with the bass line and with Tedeschi’s vocal. He leads with his guitar on the bridge, then takes the song out with a tour-de-force performance that’s usually reserved for a live show. Immediately following that, the two wrap up the program with just Trucks on acoustic guitars and Tedeschi’s sensitive vocal for “Calling Out To You,” a simple country folk piece that Tedeschi sings and Trucks plays like as if it’s a blues strain.
It’s hard to believe in this day and age where mediocre music gets dribbled out every 2-3 years, the Tedeschi Trucks Band has in the span of a little than two years has released three solid albums that reaffirms a faith that there are still major acts making hand-made music with real soul, depth and musicianship. That’s something we used to take for granted. This third time being the charm just like the first and second times, Made Up Mind is going to make fans of The Tedeschi Trucks Band badly spoiled.
Made Up Mind drops on August 20, by Sony Music.