I have been meaning to review Revelator since before it came out earlier this summer, and I was excited when my vinyl/CD package finally arrived a couple weeks ago. Revelator is the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s first album, though it’s hardly the first release for any of the eleven members of the band.
To understand this band and this recording, you have to know that the named members of the band, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, were independently successful musicians before they got married in 2001, a matrimonial match made in music heaven. Tedeschi sang the blues with soul and fire as a solo act. Trucks, the nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, has been wowing audiences with his guitar since he was a child, later joining his uncle’s band and leading his own outfit, the Derek Trucks Band. The two did collaborate over the last ten years. The DTB didn’t add a permanent lead singer until Mike Mattison joined for 2006’s Songlines, and Tedeschi sang a track on 2002’s Joyful Noise and 2009’s excellent (and Grammy-winning) Already Free. The two also joined their guitars with Eric Clapton’s as a part of Slowhand’s Crossroads tours. Although they followed the wedding ceremony, these and other collaborations were like musical flirtations or dates between the two, who largely appeared to live separate, if overlapping, professional lives.
Revelator, though, represents the marriage. TTB basically merges each of their bands and then some, including notable addition Oteil Burbridge, bass player with the Allmans since 1997. More than combining personnel, though, TTB is a union of sound. It’s right that her name comes first, because this really is Tedeschi’s band with Trucks on lead guitar, and a solid crew behind them. She really rocks the vocals throughout, briefly sharing with Mattison on one of the later tracks. Even Trucks’ guitar seems to stand in awe of her pipes. (That gets to my one, slight criticism of what is a solid album: for as full and talented as this band is, the mixing on the album– and I heard this both on the vinyl and CD– tends to compress or constrain the complete sound of the band such that I felt limited in my ability to listen around and pick out the individual contributions.)
I hesitate to call Revelator “mature,” since that sounds like it might be a negative, especially for fans of the DTB’s raw, progressive sound, but I kept coming back to that word, and I use it in a good way. If Trucks and Tedeschi pushed the limits in their separate efforts, TTB operates to solidify and command the sonic and stylistic space they created for themselves. Revelator is an introduction of a new band that is not attempting to be any of its predecessors, even if it appropriately relies on their successes, and it is an introduction for listeners to a new slate of original songs with vast potential on the live stage.
Following up the album release, Tedeschi and Trucks did some guest blogging in which Trucks found fit to note that his great uncle (Butch’s uncle) was a baseball star in the mid-1900s. Virgil “Fireball” Trucks was a pitcher who spent most of his career with the Detroit Tigers. In 1952, he became the third player ever to throw two no-hitters in a single season. (There are just five pitchers on that list today.)
Elsewhere around the web, critic Thom Jurek declares:
The record . . . showcases Tedeschi as one of the finest vocal stylists in roots music, and Trucks, has become the only true heir of Duane Allman’s bell-like slide guitar tone, his taste and restraint. More than this, Revelator offers proof that this pair and their bandmates are serious songwriters as well as players–anyone remember the original Little Feat? It’s like that, but with a woman up front.
This is a record that’s very easy to keep in my active rotation, and the more I listen to it, the more I hope for a chance at an afternoon or evening with the full ensemble in live performance.