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 – hell, there’s even been a wedding, kids, and a house with a studio in the back yard
But the 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
Just listen to how classic yet fresh is the song ‘Until You Remember’. From the opening horn chorale to the very quiet slow-burn verse to the stately piano chords on the chorus, this is a song with a purpose. Tedeschi’s vocal is completely under control but also huge—open-throated, crying, proud. Trucks’ slide solo sounds utterly vocal, bending and moaning even more than Tedeschi. And as the two mix sounds on the out-chorus, well, it’s sublime
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 song. 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 guitar 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
More uptempo numbers also score. ‘Come See About Me’ might suggest Motown, but it’s a rockin’ original with a swamp groove that percolates with clavinet, guitar and horns. The slide lick that links the tune together is irresistible, and the pulse set up by bassist Oteil Burbridge and twin drummers J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell is rock solid. ‘Love Has Something Else to Say rides above a syncopated Latin rhythm, with the horns interacting with the soulfully harmonized vocals
Everything is in place on Revelator. Kofi Burbridge’s keyboards are pitch-perfect in every small spot: a simple organ lick, a bed of Wurlitzer shimmer, the concert hall echo of acoustic piano. Background vocals around Tedeschi are sparingly used, but the duet elements of ‘Shelter’ are a critical change of pace. Trucks never whips out his guitar prowess indulgently, instead choosing to serve every song, individually
‘Bound for Glory is basically a blues song built on a sneaky organ lick and killer horn punches that launch Tedeschi into her lyric. While Trucks’ first guitar solo is only 15 seconds long, the out-chorus gives him nearly two minutes in which to develop his ideas and play them against the soulful bed of the rest of the band. ‘Ball and Chain’ is a mid-tempo rocker that features some of the best singing on the disc, and it’s easy to see how the slide solo here would normally open up to something longer
Revelator, as much as anything, makes you wonder why the Tedeschi Trucks Band took so long to come together. Susan Tedeschi’s six-album career has been terrific but always just one star away from stellar. And the Derek Trucks Band had a tendency, perhaps, to feel too much like the Allman Brothers or too much like a “Man, you’ve gotta hear ‘em live” kind of band. Though they have toured together before and guested on each other’s discs often, this true collaboration brings it all together. Trucks is less of a Pure Player here than he is a bandleader, and Tedeschi seems less like a Great Voice than someone who is crafting memorable original songs just for your ears
This fusion of loose-limbed rock and syncopated, funky blues, never indulgent, impeccably crafted, but also free as a long-long day in high summer, Revelator is a joy
Buy it here
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