This album ought to come with a warning label, “May cause incessant head-bobbing, toe-tapping, and sudden bouts of air guitar.” The first album from this 11 piece big band led by husband and wife team Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks packs a serious punch of groove. Winner of a Grammy for Best Blues Album of the Year, it features Tedeschi’s powerful voice and guitar, infused with soul, spice, and surprising sweetness, all the while punctuated by Trucks’ tasty guitar playing. The group includes brothers Oteil and Kofi Burbridge on bass and keyboards/flute respectively, Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson on Drums, Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers on harmony vocals, Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Maurice Brown on trumpet, and Saunders Sermons on trombone.
The album resonates with influence, from blues and funk, to Dixieland and Indian, but every track carries a strong soulfulness that flavors every single note. Trucks seasons every song with his unique playing, and it seems as if in this melting pot of genres, there is nothing he can’t do. His slide playing shows his flexibility as a musician, such as on “These Walls,” in which he channels his training in classical Indian sarod.
However, the unmistakable centerpiece of the album is Tedeschi’s stunning voice. Although she is known for her blues chops, this album really shows her versatility as a vocalist. She belts “Bound for Glory” and “Shelter” with infectious power and a groove that builds like a tidal wave, yet songs like “Easy Way Out” open up a new, sweeter side of Tedeschi’s singing. The size and incredibly talented makeup of the band lends itself well to the mix of sounds, and tracks like “Midnight in Harlem” feels like a classic already. The brass section, drums, and harmony vocals lend themselves well to the completion of a well-rounded sound.
Above all, you can hear just how much the band enjoyed working on the project. There is a sense of joy and passion deeply embedded in the recording that comes out of the speaker along with the music. It is a masterpiece of musical talent, a stew of inspiration, and a celebration of collaboration. If you have a serious appetite for some good ol’ soul, look no further!