There is a short list of female vocalists that I outright worship, including (but not limited to) Fiona Apple, Brandi Carlile, and Sara Bareilles. Add to that list, near the top, the lead vocalist of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Susan Tedeschi, who I had the immense pleasure of seeing in downtown Phoenix this past Saturday night.
This band is the age of an infant. Formed in 2010, Tedeschi Trucks Band is led by husband-and-wife musicians Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Their debut album, Revelator, won a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album. Their concerts draw tens of thousands of enthusiastic, supportive fans, including Jake and me. This is all after two years of being together. What? Who does that? Obviously, people with tons of talent.
Derek Trucks was the founder and headliner of The Derek Trucks Band (also Grammy-winners), and he was once a member of The Allman Brothers. He has twice appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time; currently 16th on the list. His wife, Susan Tedeschi, has received multiple Grammy Award nominations, and is well known for her singing voice, guitar playing, and vibrant stage presence. Add to these two a back-up band of nine instrumentalists and vocalists, and you’ve got the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
They didn’t take the stage Saturday night until about 9:30 PM (late for us old folks), but it was worth the wait. Their sound is capable of conquering any space, even the massive Comerica Theater in downtown Phoenix. Susan stood out for me, probably because I can’t believe her vocals. She is a mix of Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, and Etta James. She can sing rock, country, and most importantly, some serious blues. My favorite tune is Until You Remember, a heart-wrenching blues love song, ruled by Tedeschi’s killer vocal prowess. I mean, this woman can WAIL, and she’s even better live than on the albums.
More than Susan (okay, so I have a girl crush), the rest of the band stepped up with equal ability. I loved watching the dancing brass section. It was excellent when a back-up singer got to sing his own song, and wow, the boy did an excellent job. Let’s not forget Derek Trucks, either, though; talk about a guitar player! My brother is a guitar snob, and even he can’t deny the intrinsic skill of this long-haired, soft-spoken blues dude. The songs they played ranged from old style blues, to new style rock, to gospel/soul.
I think Tedeschi and Trucks say it best: “I feel like the music that this band draws from is from that sweet spot in American music, and when you think about the late ’60s and ’70s, they were drawing from music that was 20-30 years before their time … It’s soulful, it touches people, and they relate to it. It’s honest music, even now…”
“And it doesn’t change and it doesn’t go away,” says Trucks. “Real remains real. They were reigniting a flame and then starting another one. I feel like that’s what this band is all about. TTB is straddling the past and future. We don’t get to choose when we’re put here but we do get to choose what we do when we are here.”
If you can see these guys live, do it (although I know, they just left Phoenix). You’ll have to be patient and just buy their albums until they come back. If you like blues, they’re the band for you, although I can say the same of rock fans, country fans, and gospel fans. Tedeschi Trucks Band appeals to a wide demographic, and they do it with talent, charm, and my newest girl crush, a woman who wails, Susan Tedeschi.