Critic's picks: Tedeschi Trucks Band, 'Everybody's Talkin''

Contributing Music WriterMay 29, 2012 

On a dynamic new concert recording, the husband-and-wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi have all but redefined the jam-band fabric as we have come to know it over the past two decades. And they do so not by cultivating new, modernized means of improvisation but by tossing the whole genre head first into soul music tradition.

Everybody's Talkin' offers an extensive performance look at the Tedeschi Trucks Band. It's pieced together from shows in October in Toronto, Washington and Bridgeport, Conn.

Trucks, not surprisingly, has a field day displaying his typically versed songbook of guitar influences: the slide grace of Duane Allman (founder of the Allman Brothers Band, in which Trucks also plays) that is peppered throughout the album, the frenzied variation on jazz giant Wes Montgomery's rhythmic playing during the home stretch of Nobody's Free, and a raga-like solo reminiscent of early-'70s Carlos Santana that opens Midnight in Harlem. But the one doing the singing on Everybody's Talkin' is Mrs. Trucks.

Tedeschi long ago proved her might as a vocalist through recordings with her own band. But she has never sounded so grounded, assured and tireless as she does here. Her tone is husky, expressive and remarkably mature, which helps transform the blues classic Rollin' and Tumblin' into a brassy, roadhouse-worthy party tune that approximates rock pioneer Ronnie Hawkins.

Representing a wholly different extreme is the album's big curiosity, a lively update of John Sebastian's Darling Be Home Soon. Here, Tedeschi's vocals take a wonderfully torchy turn reminiscent of vintage Bonnie Raitt — that is, until Trucks takes over with a solo that recalls the winding turbulence of prog-rock great Allan Holdsworth.

Although she appears deceptively introverted onstage, Trucks plays with scholarly ingenuity throughout the album. During the 13-minute version of the band original Bound for Glory, Trucks works off churchy organ runs and the band's relaxed Southern shuffle to create a roaring slide-guitar adventure that would do Duane Allman proud. And during Love Has Something to Say, Trucks' beefy, wah-wah guitar lead proves a wonderful foil for Tedeschi's vocal grind.

Amazingly, all this is but a fraction of the ground Everybody's Talkin' covers. The ensemble's 11 players includes a full horn section, current Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and a repertoire that moves from loose, Traffic-style flute jams to the full tilt gospel drive of the album-closing cover of Wade in the Water.

There a few excesses, to be sure, including the obligatory bass and drums solos in the middle of the Stevie Wonder classic Uptight. Mostly, though, this blues-soul feast abounds with spicy, inventive dialogue in which everybody is indeed talking. But, more important, everyone has something intriguing to say.

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