This is the recording debut of the new, 11-piece band formed by slide guitarist Derek Trucks and blues singer Susan Tedeschi, who are also husband and wife. Both musicians have been fronting their own bands for over a decade and Trucks is also a member of The Allman Brothers Band, playing with his uncle, drummer Butch Trucks.
The band features a 3-piece horn section along with 3 backing vocalists and the photo of all 11 musicians lined up in the photo on the cover can seem a bit intimidating. When I spoke to Derek Trucks a few months ago, he stated that he was basing the new band of previous big, soul-rock groups like Delaney & Bonnie and Friends and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen. So I expected Revelator to be a big, brassy, soul-shaking rave-up. But that’s not what we have here. The sound is much more restrained with the emphasis on songwriting and singer rather than jamming and shouting.
The album opens with Come See About Me (not The Supremes hit) and its mid-tempo funky, southern-fried groove sets the tone for what’s to come. Tedeschi’s vocal style is similar to Bonnie Raitt’s, but a touch grittier and Trucks’ guitar-playing is straight out of the Duane Allman school of slide. The horns section sounds a bit buried in the mix on the first two tracks but they get to shine later in the piece.
The album really kicks into gear with track three. Midnight In Harlem is a mellow, bluesy ballad, driven by Kofi Burbridge’s beautiful Hammond B-3. Trucks’ slide guitar joins in and Tedeschi lays down one of her finest vocal performances, restrained and emotive. This sounds like it could be the companion piece to Tony Joe White’s Rainy Night In Georgia.
Bound For Glory follows (again, not the Neil Young tune, they’re all originals here), with a punchy horn chart, funky bass line and a great chorus. It’s followed by a number co-written with The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris, a reflective country-soul number called Simple Things. Then comes Until You Remember. Co-written with John Leventhal, it starts out with a New Orleans-style horn part before slipping in to a soulful ballad that recalls Otis Redding classics like Try A Little Tenderness and These Arms Of Mine. Trucks adds the icing to the cake with another stunning slide guitar solo.
Not all the tracks are successful. Ball & Chain, with Oliver Wood, sounds a bit undercooked and there seems to be an over-abundance of mid-tempo tracks.
There are a few production flourishes that keep things interesting, particularly the use of table and sarode on These Walls. The band starts to pick up steam with the riff-heavy Learn How To Love and really gets cookin’ on Love Has Something To Say, which gives the horn section some room to show off. Things wrap up with the much quieter Shelter where Derek Trucks gets the opportunity to let loose with one last slide solo.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band played one of its earliest gigs here in Auckland a few months ago. They proved then that they had the chops to cut it live. Now, with the release of Revelator, they prove that, thanks to solid song writing and sensitive production, they can come up with the goods in the studio as well.
Click here to listen to Midnight In Harlem from Revelator: