Monday, July 18, 2011

Tedeschi Trucks Band's Revelator Has Strong Appeal

Each having successful solo careers, spouses Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks have put that part of their career behind for a period to co-lead a band. Both have developed into established and focused performers, who often joined each other on stage when possible. This new combination is not surprising. The Tedeschi Trucks Band have recently issued The Tedeschi Trucks Band have recently issued Revelator, on Sony Masterworks.

In addition to the leaders, Kofi Burbridge from Derek's band is on keyboards while his brother Oteil, from the Allman Brothers, handles the bass. Mike Mattison, Derek's vocalist is aboard for harmony vocals (and he contributes to some of the songs, which are all originals). Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson are on drums, while Mark Rivers, David Ryan Harris and Ryan Shaw are on harmony vocals. There is also a horn section that includes Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Maurice Brown on trumpet, and Saunders Semmons on trombones. The horns add some punch and atmosphere, but with one exception little else.

Few will be surprised with the music here. There is plenty of Trucks' piercing, vocalized slide guitar and Tedeschi certainly has matured to a superb singer.Certainly she is equal to others in the blues-r&b-roots-pop vein able to move from a honey-toned straight-ahead to a church-rooted shout, always sounding natural. Its easy to simply sit back and listen to the solid, tight performances here and certainly one should expect that the live performances equal, if not surpass, the level of the music here.

This is not to say that everything is perfect. Their is some sameness to some of the material and some of the material on closer examination is not as strong as the band's execution. Bound For Glory, seems like a stringing together of hooks, and the entire lyric does not cohere, although Simple Things, is a gem, with Tedeschi's vocal acknowledging that she has not been giving enough in the relationship and maybe that's why one has the walls around himself.

The groove of Until You Remember evokes classic Memphis soul, and has another of the better lyrics here as Tedeschi sings it ain't right to be holding on too tight "until you remember you are mine." There is a nice suggestion of the Memphis Horns or Bar-Kays at the opening, while Derek's guitar builds upon the intensity generated by Susan's vocal. An intriguing performance is These Walls, with its addition of sarode and tabla to the musical mix to a tune that has a melody similar to Angel From Montgomery, with a lyric about a woman whose man has left town and whose times have been hard praying that the walls don't fall down and "thinking 'bout you baby for such a long, long time." The interplay between the sarode and Truck's very restrained slide work here is very nice.

In addition to the uneven songwriting, this writer also wishes that the horns might have been given more than simply the supporting role they exhibited. Maurice Brown, for example, is an especially gifted soloist with considerable warmth and originality and certainly would have further spiced up the performances. The horns on Love Has Something Else To Say, provide a hint of this point with a dialogue between guitar and tenor sax.

Of course, these are minor criticisms at most and "Revelator" certainly will be on many lists of the best recordings of 2011. Incidentally, after the conclusion of Shelter, there is an hidden performance of an instrumental, Ghost Light.

My review copy was provided by a publicist.

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