Fantasy Records 16th July 2021
I’m a sucker for the Tedeschi Trucks Band and their soulful blues sound. Combining the blues chops and blues-perfect voice of Susan Tedeschi with the complex and detailed guitar skills of Derek Trucks, they have a large band with backing singers, organ keyboards, horns and they love to get into the groove. These grooves can take songs out past the ten minute mark without overdoing things. This is a bit special; it’s a live concert from 2019 with Trey Anastasio guesting. He’s the lead guitar in the biggest American jam-band, Phish, and has epic chops himself. The triple guitar makes it a treat for anyone who likes that sort of thing. Trucks has instantly recognisably searching tone on the quieter moments of his solos and Anastasio has his own brand of digging deep. To hear the skilled listening and intertwining of lines is mildly hallucinatory.
It is a sweet backdrop to the set that Trucks was actually named after Derek & The Dominos. It was a lucky escape for him that his parents weren’t fans of Badfinger or The Mothers of Invention at that point. Coincidentally, Susan, was born on the album’s release date but fortunately her parents declined to call her Derek or Eric. The triumphs here are the transformation of some so-so material into stompers and powerful yearning blues ballads, the Hammond organ sound, Susan’s bluesy yet powerful voice and the guitars. There is an approximate formula to the longer songs – somewhere the rhythm will step back and the song will dip into deep noodling with soaring and duelling guitar. Sample “Anyway”. A run of the mill album track becomes a steam-rollering barrel of blues boogie as guitars launch again and again into a soulful stratosphere. Fully engaged for thirteen minutes, it sounds like the Derek Trucks Band or latter day Allman Brothers Band (Trucks was in the Allman Brothers).
This concert sees the band putting on a musical costume (as Trey Anastasio’s band, Phish, is wont to do on Halloween) and draping themselves in Eric Clapton’s Layla (actually by Derek & The Dominos, but no-one thinks of it as anything but Clapton’s album). This was a double album from 1970 that, despite not charting in the UK and being critically received as a curate’s egg (the mix of guitar epics and soppy ballads apparently made it scrappy) spawned some really well-known songs and went on to become considered as Clapton’s best achievement. Ideal for a revisit and The Tedeschi Trucks band’s approach to ballads lifts the whole enterprise through focus on the big round sound and almost vocally expressive guitar. The ones you’ll know are “Bell Bottom Blues” (‘I don’t want to fade away’), “Keep On Growing”, “Tell The Truth” (‘who’s been fooling who?’) and of course, “Layla”. “Little Wing” you’ll know as originally Hendrix’s and here was acclaimed as a guitar showcase and the band take care to make it different, to make it warm and wide.
However, even the tracks that didn’t inspire in 1970 benefit here. “Key To The Highway” is ripped up as a blues stomper. “Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad” (a regular in the band’s rotation) is a lovely smooth glide of a song and after only a minute and a half soloing starts and doesn’t let up till the song is fully worked out. In the process an eighty minute album becomes a hundred minute concert that could easily have been longer without outstaying its welcome. There were fourteen people on stage and the sound is full and rich but with plenty of detail and interest up front.
The show ends with a barnstorming extended Layla. The album has another track but, Layla is a natural endpoint so, for completeness, Tedeschi tagged on a studio version of her playing the closing track to calm the temperature a little.
Fair warning; this may lead you into an obsession with collecting live bootlegs of the Tedeschi Trucks Band – it is just that satisfying a listen.