Wheels of Soul Tour 2017
Featuring Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna. 7 p.m. July 21 at PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati. $52, $62, $79. Riverbend.org/venue/pnc-pavilion, tedeschitrucksband.com, thewoodbros.com, Hottuna.com.
In a summer full of festivals large and larger, the single-evening trek undertaken by the Tedeschi Trucks Band in recent years stands as a lesson in efficiency and solidarity.
Now in its third year, TTB’s Wheels of Soul Tour invites two other acts, like-minded in their love of roots-directed and slightly retro-leaning music, to share the bill. In that sense, a Wheels of Soul show seems more like a rudimentary multi-act concert. But the festival spirit comes in through the sense of invitation.
The guitar slinging rock ’n’ roll couple of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi — not to mention the surrounding singers, horn section and rhythm players who flesh out the band roster of 12 artists — frequently sit in with their guest acts, and vice versa. That makes for some rather exciting mash-ups, such as the the time the TTB horns teamed with Los Lobos on “Mas y Mas” or when Trucks and North Mississippi All-Stars guitarist Luther Dickinson let a furious dual jam melt away briefly into the Allman Brothers classic “Little Martha.”
Those two moments came from last year’s Wheels of Soul concert at the PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati. The current tour returns there Friday night with two new co-stars: The Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna.
The Wood Brothers is the folk, blues and soul pairing of siblings Oliver Wood (on guitar and vocals) and bassist Chris Wood (also known as the latter third of the jam-jazz-funk trio Medeski, Martin & Wood). Percussionist Jano Rix solidified the band as a trio in 2012. The Wood Brothers’ newest album is a concert set called “Live at the Barn.” It was recorded at Levon Helm’s famed Barn studio last summer in Woodstock, N.Y.
Hot Tuna has embraced blues traditions for more than 45 years, beginning as a side project for two Jefferson Airplane co-founders: guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Kaukonen isn’t one for nostalgia, but it will be curious to see whether he performs “Embryonic Journey” on Friday night. The tune is a longtime instrumental staple of his repertoire, which was first released on the Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” album 50 years ago last winter.
As for the hosting TTB, it is celebrating the spring release of “Live from the Fox Oakland,” a two-disc set taken from post-Wheels of Soul Tour shows last August that neatly encapsulate the revue-style groove that makes for a merry cross between the Joe Cocker-Leon Russell-led band Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and Sly and the Family Stone.
The cosmic yodel that Nikki Lane lets loose with at the onset of her new album, “Highway Queen,” makes for a compelling Americana battle cry. But it’s also deceptive, because the tune it jump-starts, the exquisitely titled “700,000 Rednecks,” quickly dissolves into a pool of country cool that falls somewhere between Bobbie Gentry and Dusty Springfield.
But that’s just the beginning to one of the year’s most audacious country records, one that’s too wayward in temperament and tradition for country radio to ever think of touching it.
For example, the title tune to “Highway Queen” eases in, as if from the prairies, on echoing strains of pedal-steel guitar before gathering steam for a far more raucous roadhouse grind. Ditto for the white-line fever that waits outside the casino escapade “Jackpot” and the deliciously blunt cheap-talk parable “Big Mouth” (“Is this really small town? Is that what we’re talking about? Is that where this is coming from, or is it just your big mouth?”). And for pure fun, there is the vintage girl-group undercurrent of “Companion.”
Lane might not have amassed star status by this point, even though “Highway Queen” puts just about every mainstream country album of the summer to shame. She has, however, picked up some pretty impressive pals. This spring, she wound up at Loretta Lynn’s Hurricane Mills ranch to sing the latter’s 1966 hit “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” alongside the country music matriarch. The performance was broadcast on a Saturday installment of “CBS This Morning.”
Lane last made her way through Lexington two summers ago by way of an 11th-hour booking at the Green Lantern. She was supporting her Dan Auerbach-produced album “All or Nothin’” at the time. “Highway Queen” brings her back to town Tuesday for a performance at Cosmic Charlie’s.
Jonathan Tyler, who was producer for “Highway Queen,” will open the show.