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Published: 2011/06/07
by Brian Robbins

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Sony Masterworks

Well, it’s about time.

Ever since guitarist Derek Trucks (he of the old soul since birth) and singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi (she of the real-thang blues pipes) first crossed paths back in 1999, the world’s been waiting for a full-fledged musical effort from them. We’ve had occasional musical cross-pollinations between the two, both on stage and on record – heck, there’s even been a wedding, kids, and a house with a studio in the back yard.

But this here Tedeschi Trucks Band and their debut album Revelator has been worth the wait. Tedeschi and Trucks have put together an 11-member band that recalls the good parts of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and takes that vibe to new places. (Hearing a sarod lead the way into the swampy soul of “These Walls”, for instance – now that’s a new place.)

Revelator starts off with a blast of classic Allman Brothers-like swagger: “Come See About Me” finds the whole band chasing a groove that feels a little like a cousin to the late Duane Allman’s riff on “Stand Back”. But where ol’ Skydog attempted to make his Gibson sound like a horn section all those years ago, TTB actually _has _one. And for all the times that Susan Tedeschi’s voice gets compared to Bonnie Raitt’s or Janis Joplin’s, how about acknowledging that she can dig in and belt it out as soulfully as Brother Gregg? Or put an ear to “Until You Remember” and tell me that she’s not doing some serious Otis Redding channeling, her vocal swaying a slow waltz with Derek’s guitar as the song builds to its climax.

The band’s 3-piece horn section knows when to dance in and out with quick Muscle Shoal-style jabs (listen to their “Poke Salad Annie”-flavored work on “Bound For Glory”) or lay down the funk sauce thick and heavy (dig “Love Has Something Else To Say”, which eventually grinds its way to a nasty-ass guitar/horn jam). That same knowing-what-to-do-and-when-to-do-it approach is what this band is all about; the lineup is powerful yet never overpowering, whether it’s the harmony vocals of Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers on tunes such as “Don’t Let Me Slide” or the tasteful dual drumming of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell on everything from the gentle country soul of “Shelter” to the voodoo stomp of “Learn How To Live”.

And look over here: Kofi and Oteil Burbridge (keys and bass, respectively) bring their own brand of brotherly ESP and musical talents to TTB. Both have shared the stage with Trucks for years in separate efforts (and together in the fabled jam supergroup Frogwings) – when you put the Brothers Burbridge in the same place at the same time, magic happens.

And then there’s Mr. Trucks, who acts as the band’s ringmaster, leading the way with his unique guitar voice. It’s true: nobody – nobody – sounds like Derek Trucks when it comes to laying a glass slide to the neck of his trusty Gibson SG, but Revelator finds him broadening his palette of sound, adding a throaty old Gibson Firebird into the mix, along with some wicked sans-slide fretting.

The true masterpiece on Revelator may be “Midnight In Harlem”, which sounds like a cover in the nicest of ways: you find yourself really and truly believing that you must’ve heard Marvin Gaye doing a version of this song a long, long time ago – but no. It deserves the mistake, but it’s an original penned by Trucks and Mike Mattison. Drums, bass, and keys combine for an easy glide into the first verse, with Trucks’ slide adding just the right amount of ache to the sweet. Tedeschi lets her voice ride the groove; she fires off powerful passages effortlessly, working off the bits of thick guitar and the textures of background vocals offered up. With a little over two minutes to go in the song, Trucks steps to the forefront, laying down beautifully-phrased slide that slowly builds in intensity. At moments like this, Trucks’ playing is absolutely horn-like, right down to the pauses for “breaths.” The keys match the emotion of Trucks’ guitar and everything hits a lovely, unified peak before gently tumbling back down at the song’s end. It’s truly gorgeous.

Revelator finds the duo of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks leading a dream team of players with class, taste, and just the right amount of grease – doing something they were born to do side-by-side.

What a love story, eh?

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