Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By (2016)

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The opening notes of “Anyhow,” the first track from Tedeschi Trucks Band first studio album in three years are like faint echoes of the recently-ended Allman Brothers Band. A few seconds later, it’s replaced by this fresher, tighter groove and Susan Tedeschi’s spiritually solid pipes kick in backed by the strength of a unified twelve-member band with their own distillation of all the great American music root forms. Symbolically, the baton has been passed.

Derek Trucks had been in that pinnacle Southern rock band since he was a teenager, and had been talented enough as a guitarist and composer to start up his own band, the Derek Trucks Band, even before formally joining the Allmans. Since 2010, he’s co-led the Tedeschi Trucks Band, a merger of his and wife Susan Tedeschi’s bands, and through two studio albums and a live one, the band offered quality roots rock by eight quality musicians. They were tight, seasoned and inspired right out of the box with their Grammy-awarded Revelator debut. Five years of touring, tweaking and recording only made them more so.

But as long as Trucks was beholden to Gregg Allman’s band, it remained a side project to some extent. With the former band now shuttered, the side project has become the sole focus and the full potential is now possible. Let Me Get By (out January 29, 2016) benefits from not just the increased attention, but from a fresh new attitude from partnering with a different, open-minded label (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s old label Fantasy), an expanded home studio, an expanded lineup and a new bass player whose (black) star is on the rise.

Continuing the tweaks that makes their alchemy of blues, soul, funk, rock and even jazz as seamless as ever, the TTB added David Bowie’s last bassist Tim Lefebvre to the fold, and now operate with two drummers (J.J. Johnson, Tyler Greenwell), as Kofi Burbridge continues on keyboards and a trio a piece of backing vocalists and horn players complete a formidable band. For the first time, all the songs were written in-house, with the composing done interchangeably among the core members.

Tedeschi’s spiritually mighty chant is a unifying force for almost all these songs that break through genres like none ever existed, because she and her backing choir of Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour can put the gospel into any tune. “Laugh About It,” “Let Me Get By” and the breezily marching, rural “Hear Me” are a handful of examples where vocals alone conjure up a Sunday morning feel.

For the first time on a TTB record, Mattison gets some extended lead vocal time, and it’s a real treat, a secret weapon that the band has finally decided to use. The Scrapomatic and Derek Trucks Band frontman lends his soul-laden rasp for “Crying Over You,” a song he co-wrote that fuses vintage RnB, country and Southern rock with a strong melody that puts it all together as a solid whole. He also shares lead vocals with Tedeschi for “Right On Time,” pushed by a strut that suggests Dixieland but Trucks’ acoustic and electric slide work helps to save it from slipping too far into the baroque.

Ah yes, Trucks. His production touches are everywhere (as is Doyle Bramhall II’s, who co-produces on a handful of tracks). In spite of twelve or more participants on any given track, none of it sounds over-wrought. He’s very savvy at placing the horn section so that it bolsters instead of weighting down songs. There’s a nice, timeless warm ambience to the recordings, and he wisely reigns in the song lengths to only hint at their jam prowess; in other words, if you wanna hear them really stretch out, go to the shows. And of course, he happens to be one of the top slide guitarists alive. You can hear morsels of that sweet slide all over, as well as a terrific, “non-slide” guitar solo during “Crying Over You” before quietly trading licks with Burbridge on flute as the song winds down to the short instrumental jam “Swamp Raga for Holzapfel, Lefebvre, Flute and Harmonium.”

So there’s no need to lament the demise of the Allman Brothers Band, because Derek, Susan and about ten of their talented friends have got you covered. Only the high quality of their prior work makes Let Me Get By an incremental step rather than a big leap forward, but it’s an important, final step. They’re now a full-time, fully mature and fully self-contained ensemble ready to conquer the world. Already, they’re well on their way toward doing just that.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon 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. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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