Tedeschi Trucks Band excels with ‘Made Up Mind’
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 08:09
For a band that just formed in 2010, Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB) has been remarkably productive over the past few years. While their 2011 album “Revelator” (which won the 2012 Grammy for Best Blues Album) was a fine debut, it only hinted at the group’s potential. In concert, the 11-piece blues-rock TTB is an improvisational force to be reckoned with, demonstrating a level of finesse and interplay between its members seen in few touring bands today. Fronted by husband and wife duo Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, TTB has clearly gained more experience in the past two years, and their progress is readily apparent on their second studio album, “Made Up Mind.” The group’s recent release successfully harnesses the power and energy displayed in the group’s live performances, resulting in a remarkable sophomore effort with excellent songwriting and tight structures — an album that finally showcases their true capabilities.
“Made Up Mind” bursts out of the gate with its first title track, which features a driving, gritty guitar riff by Trucks that propels the band through the entire song. Following this riff is the dual percussion of drummers Tyler Greenwell and J. J. Johnson, to which Tedeschi lends her powerful voice and strikes a defiant tone. The song steadily builds in momentum as the remaining members come in, adding horns, keyboard and backing vocals in an increased fervor. During the climax, the song kicks up the intensity, with Tedeschi howling at full force as Trucks’ slide guitar weaves in and out. While clocking in at a lean four minutes, “Made Up Mind” delivers a strong opening statement.
Though the rest of the album delves into various musical styles, Trucks’ guitar and Tedeschi’s voice are heavily present throughout all the songs, as is the bluesy, swampy Southern tone established in “Revelator.” Certain songs feel like a modern update on Motown and Stax classics, like the upbeat “Part of Me,” which focuses prominently on the horn section, as well as vocal tradeoffs between Tedeschi and backup singer Mike Mattison. While some songs proudly wear their influences on their sleeves, such as the funky “Misunderstood,” they never devolve into mere tributes and always feel like a natural extension of the band’s sound.
Essential to this sound is Trucks, who co-produced the album and is a co-writer on nearly all of the songs. Famous for his work in the current lineup of the Allman Brothers Band, as well as in his solo group, The Derek Trucks Band, Trucks is a slide virtuoso and a dynamic improviser, making him one of the main attractions of TTB’s live shows. But on “Made Up Mind,” the lengthy solos that are so typical of Trucks’ live performances are not as prevalent, with his playing instead appearing in small bursts throughout the album. While his guitar is always essential to the structure of each song, Trucks’ tastefully restrained slide playing makes it all the more worthwhile for listeners once it moves to the forefront. Although Trucks shies away from taking the spotlight on most of the tracks, his playing does dominate on “The Storm,” the album’s penultimate song. Here, he leads the band through a gripping instrumental, creating a tangible, thrilling sensation that resonates with listeners.
While Trucks’ guitar remains integral to the group’s sound, it is equally matched by the strength of Tedeschi’s voice. As the lead vocalist of the band, Tedeschi is front and center for the entire album and displays a range that is truly incredible. Throughout the album, her powerhouse vocals and wails reach a fearsome level on tracks like “Do I Look Worried.” Other instances, such as the low-key yet moving album closer “Calling Out To You,” demonstrate the gentler side of her voice. When coupled with her husband’s guitar segments, the chemistry between the two is possibly the greatest secret weapon in the band’s arsenal.
In their second studio venture, TTB exhibits their highly improved songwriting skills with an album that is leaps and bounds ahead of where they were two years ago with “Revelator.” Successfully synthesizing the power of their live performances on songs that explore new musical territory and highlight the remarkable musicianship of its members, “Made Up Mind” is a stunning achievement and points to what will hopefully be a long and exciting career for this promising group.