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(Sony Masterworks 81420 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 6/15/2011)
Musical teams of husband and wife are not uncommon. The folk world seems especially conducive to musical spouses performing together, going back to the days of the Carter Family. There are also married musicians who maintain separate careers, usually because they play in different styles. This week we have the first full album together by a musical couple who have been maintaining notably separate careers, despite the fact that they both play the a rocky brand of the blues. It's Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, whose new joint album, under the name Tedeschi Trucks Band is called Revelator
In the blues, it's a lot rarer for there to be spouses performing together -- perhaps, one could whimsically observe, it's because so many blues songs are about marital infidelity. But for whatever reason, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks have had interesting and separate careers, which preceded their matrimony. Derek Trucks was a kind of electric guitar prodigy, performing with Buddy Guy at age 12, emerging on the national scene in his teens, and playing rock and fusion, notably not doing any singing, with his own bands over several albums, and since 1999 as an official member of the Allman Brothers Band. His uncle is Butch Trucks, the founding drummer of the Allman Brothers Band.
Vocalist and guitarist Susan Tedeschi, nine years older than Derek Trucks, formed her first band in 1994, and which released their debut album the following year. The Boston native and graduate in composition from the Berklee College of Music, began to attract attention through wide touring, including on the Lilith Fair tour in 1999, and then opening for well-known artists like John Mellencamp, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers Band. It was on one of those performances in 1999 that she met her future husband. They married in 2001. Meanwhile, she was enjoying a fair amount of commercial and critical success for her own solo albums, highlighting her vocals that are often reminiscent of those of Bonnie Raitt.
Although they have been married for 10 years now, Tedeschi and Trucks had not done an album together until now. Each kept their own band going, but they did frequently put in guest appearances on each other's tours. And there was a kind of ad-hoc touring band called Soul Stew Revival, combining members from Trucks and Tedeschi's bands, but which had not recorded. They appeared together last year on interestingly on a Herbie Hancock recording, a multi-artist production called the Imagine Project.
But in 2010 they decided to set aside their own individual bands, and concentrate on a joint group, appropriately named the Tedeschi Trucks Band, concentrating on original music. The group is a mixture of members from each of the spouse's bands, including Kofi and Otiel Burbridge from the Allman Brothers, plus keyboard man Tyler Greenwell from Tedeschi's band. They brought in veteran producer/engineer Jim Scott, who is known for his touch with quality roots rock, and recorded in their home state of Florida. The original material they did has a kind of classic Memphis soul sound, with Ms Tedeschi's strong vocals and Truck's slide guitar dominating. Trucks' tendency toward jazziness is kept in check. There's nothing really fancy about the music, with the songs covering familiar topics, though notably not much about cheating husbands or wives, and some tunes that seem influenced by African-American Gospel.
Opening the generous hour-plus-long CD is one of its stronger tracks Come See About Me. The spotlight is rather evenly divided between Ms. Tedeschi's vocal and Trucks' slide guitar work. <<>>
One of the more laid back songs is Midnight in Harlem, co-written by Trucks and his band's lead vocalist Mike Mattison. <<>>
Showing the mix of Memphis soul and Gospel influence is another of the standout tracks Bound for Glory. <<>>
The more introspective side of the album comes out Simple Things, co-written by Trucks and Tedeschi. It has a bit more in common with singer-songwriters than Memphis soul. But it's nicely done. <<>>
There's an original song on the CD called Ball and Chain, not to be confused with the tune by the same name recorded by Janis Joplin. This song was co-written by Tedeschi, Trucks and Oliver Wood, the songwriter-guitarist brother of Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin and Wood. Oliver Wood also appears on the vocal. <<>>
On Derek Trucks' early, mostly-instrumental albums, he included some Indian influence. There is a touch of that on a fine track called These Walls, which features Alam Khan on the sarod. <<>>
There are a couple of instrumentals. One is called Shrimp and Grits, which is described as an "interlude." It's basically a funky groove that features both spouses on guitars. <<>>
Another highlight of the CD is Shelter, co-written by Tedeshi, Trucks and David Ryan Harris, who appears on the vocals. Lyrically, it's the exact opposite of a stereotypical blues song. It celebrates the faithfulness of one's significant other. <<>>
Though Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks have been marital partners for 10 years, and have sat in with each other's band on tour, the new CD Revelator is their first formal album together. And they have set aside their own individual bands to work together as a team. The musical rapport is obvious, and the result is a tasteful album with a kind of classic sound influenced by Memphis soul. My one complaint is that there is not a lot of variation in the sound, and sometimes, Derek Trucks' trademark slide guitar may not be the best match for certain songs. But the original material is quite good and the playing first-rate all around.
Our grade for sound quality is about a B-plus. Jim Scott is great with this kind of roots rock, but the sound is not as crisp as some of Scott's previous efforts, and the mix contributes somewhat to lack of variation in sound over the album.
It's nice to hear these two now-established blues-rock figures together on record for a whole album. The Tedeschi Trucks Band new CD should be a boon for their fans and perhaps win them quite a few more.
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