In the summer, Tedeschi Trucks Band released Revelator and got themselves in the running for Album of the Year. The band is fronted by Derek Trucks on lead guitar and Susan Tedeschi on rhythm guitar and vocals, two individuals I’d heard of prior to this album but had never been exposed to their music. I’ll definitely be going back to listen to back catalogues of both musicians, because when they combine their talents for this album, you get this superb mix of musical tunes.
I certainly don’t want to discredit the other musicians on this album. This is an eleven-member ensemble and they deliver some soulful stuff here. One special mention in particular is drummer J.J. Johnson, who toured for years with John Mayer. Oddly enough, David Ryan Harris, a little-known and underrated singer-songwriter who has been touring with John Mayer for several years, has several songwriting credits on the album, but is nowhere included in the EPK videos or photos. Either way, both guys add a lot to this diverse album. I love finding new projects of John Mayer’s old collaborators and discovering that they are awesome. Good musicians surround themselves with good musicians, and that is most certainly the case for this album.
Back in 2007, Derek Trucks was one of the featured guitarists in their cover story on the New Guitar Gods. The three featured guitarists were Trucks, John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and John Mayer. At the time I was too enamored of John Mayer to really care who else they had chosen, but holy cow they hit the nail on the head with Trucks. Blues notes are in his blood. His uncle was a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band and he’s played slide guitar from an early age. Musicians he has shared the stage with include Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers Band, Trey Anastasio, Phil Lesh, among others. The dude is insane.
And his playing really informs the musical element of this album. It is heavy on the slide guitar sound, which could get redundant, but each song it is layered in such a unique way and rests in a different atmosphere. Since he plays mostly in alternate tunings with the slide, he gets unique chord progressions and solo runs that I’m not used to hearing and little things keep popping up that are unexpected. There will be a chord progression and a little guitar lick that starts out very run of the mill and what you’re expecting to come next actually doesn’t; Trucks takes your expectation and says “Forget that. Try this.” It’s better than the expectation every time. But what I find vital to this album’s success is that it has a really cohesive quality due to Trucks’ playing. On the ballads, he keeps it understated and beautiful. On the rockers, he lets loose and the guitar just wails. I haven’t heard blues playing that sounds this modern or infused with pop since Continuum. And I think that’s why I’ve dug this album so much. Musically, it reminds me very much of a John Mayer record that skews much more towards swampy New Orleans funk and blues.
And then we’ve got Susan Tedeschi’s voice. Holy moly does she have a set of lungs that will knock your socks off. One of the reasons this album works so well is that the blend between musical stylings and Tedeschi’s voice is just so subtle and perfect. Her voice has the most unique tone, not nasally at all, this woman sings from her gut. And she controls it so well. There is no flash to her singing because she doesn’t need it. Her tone and control are both just so solid. She doesn’t oversell a thing on this whole album.
I hadn’t heard of any of the other band members (aside from the aforementioned exceptions) but I have to say that the cohesiveness of this album makes it continually listenable. There is a really strong unity between these musicians that creates wonderful vibes. Susan and Derek have been married for a decade, two musicians in the band are brothers, and other members have previously played on both Tedeschi’s and Trucks’ solo stuff. These close relationships shine through in the music and it makes a fuller listening experience as a whole.
I hope you get to check this album out. This is their performance on Conan. I wish half the musicians he features were this good.