My Long Love Affair with Derek Trucks Band & A New Relationship with Tedeschi Trucks Band
Music is a game of associations. Our favorite songs and bands adhere themselves to specific moments and emotions in a way that is unlike any other art form. Who hasn’t stared teary-eyed at a traffic light, praying that they can drive home without wrecking before Roberta Flack finishes “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face?” No? Just me?
The group that has forever leached itself to my memory of college is, most certainly, Derek Trucks Band. The slide-guitar virtuoso and his merry bunch of brethren were the soundtrack to my drunken debauchery in Bloomington, IN. My friends had spent their high school years rolling joints while listening to their dad’s dusty copy of The Allman Brothers Band Live at Fillmore East.
We were the children of the children of The Sixties. White man’s blues was a comfort food and jam bands were a natural extension of that. Nobody, but nobody, can jam like Trucks. The nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks has been gigging with grown men since age eleven (VIDEO: Derek Trucks – Layla/Jam – July 4, 1993.) By 2003, at age 24, Trucks was the youngest member of Rolling Stone’s list of rock & roll’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
My sophomore year of college, 2006, DTB released Songlines. The live album and DVD hit my group of friends like an epidemic of epic proportions. We stared slack-jawed as Trucks slid effortlessly from the urban blues of “I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy” to traditional Indian songs like “Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni.”
With the slide guitar, the possibilities are endless. The guitarist is no longer limited by the fretboard. Musicians talk of their instrument becoming an extension of their hands. With Trucks, the guitar had become an extension of his mind. Any conceivable sound spewed forth with ease from his red Gibson. And what glorious sounds!
We saw him everywhere that we could afford: Indianapolis, Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, All Good Festival in West Virginia. Whether he was breathing life back into The Allman Brothers or making new strides with DTB, we were there. While Trucks was critically acclaimed and praised by legends like Clapton, his audiences were limited to older blues heads and jam band junkies.
By 2009, my obsession had tapered, but DTB was still my favorite band. That year brought the release of Already Free, arguably the band’s most accessible album to date. It also marked the first time that Trucks served as executive producer. I caught a handful of shows on the Already Free Tour. The culmination, came at Chicago’s Park West. The same venue that DTB had recorded Songlines a few years earlier.
I saw two shows in Chicago. These recordings became the basis for the band’s live release Roadsongs. Technically, DTB sounded as good as ever, maybe better. However, there seemed to be something missing emotionally. Lead singer Mike Mattison appeared disinterested at times. It probably didn’t help that the setlists of the two-night run were virtually identical. Thus, allowing the band to cover up any missteps in recording from night one.
The long, strange trip was over a few months later. DTB had announced that it would be taking a hiatus. Though I was a couple of years removed from college at this point, it hadn’t felt like that phase of my life had ended. I spent as much time in smoky bars and arenas as the classroom over those four years. It was not until the break-up of the band that defined my college career that I truly graduated.
Enter Susan Tedeschi.
Trucks’ wife, Susan Tedeschi, is a songstress of the highest order. She has received multiple Grammy nominations on her own right. In fact, in 2010, she and Derek were both nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Tedeschi for Back to the River. Trucks for Already Free. I had seen the two collaborate on a tour dubbed Soul Stew Revival, back in 2008 at the All Good Festival.
She is as soulful a singer as any female vocalist I know of. Her voice is powerful, with the ability to drop down low or soar high, depending on what the music calls for. Oh, and surprise, surprise, this chick can SHRED. Her guitar chops have only improved since marrying Trucks.
June 7, 2011 brought Revelator, the first release of Tedeschi Trucks Band. The album moved Mattison to back-up vocalist and Susan to center stage. Though I have been more excited about other album releases, I can’t recall a release that caused such nervousness. I knew it would not suck. The talent level of the musicians on this record made that an impossibility. I guess I was afraid that I would hate it, regardless of the level of the quality.
My first two listens to the album brought mixed emotions. This is not Derek Trucks Band. Nor is it Derek Trucks’ band. Susan’s songwriting and vocal prowess are the driving forces behind Revelator. As expected, I found myself comparing the two projects, upset by the fact that this was no longer the band that had sent me off into adulthood. This is something different.
Once I could bring myself to accept the fact that this is a new band, I began to experience the same hair-raising sensations that Derek has been providing me for years. The question that remains for Tedeschi Trucks Band: who is their target audience? Revelator is an album that may alienate Trucks’ stoner, jam band following. However, it should nicely incorporate Tedeschi’s fan base into the mix. Regardless of where this new project takes them, I’ll be listening. Even though it may be with a bit of reluctance.
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Written by Rob Peoni