Album review: Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator

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-winningAlready 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. Keep reading…

CD review: Rodrigo y Gabriela – Live in France

Live in France is the latest release from Rodrigo y Gabriela, a globe-trotting, genre-blending guitar duo from Mexico City. I first heard the group perform on David Letterman’s show a few years ago, picked up their 2006 self-titled release, and was hooked.

This new eleven-cut release is culled from five different stops on their recent tour in support of their 2009 studio album, 11:11. For all the excitement and commitment I attributed to myself in the previous paragraph, I actually lost track of these two after their self-titled album, so my ears had plenty of catching up to do when listening to this new album. Rodrigo y Gabriela have a signature sound, and longtime fans will immediately recognize the group on this release even if they too have fallen of the wagon, but they also will recognize the musical growth of these two over the last five years. Keep reading…

CD review: It actually is Rocket Science

I just received a copy of Rocket Science, the latest release from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. I haven’t made it all the way through the disc just yet, but fans of the group’s previous releases will be right at home with this album.

Rocket Science marks the return of original Flecktone Howard Levy, who left the band in 1992. His piano and harmonica definitely are a noticeable (re)addition to the band’s sound, and they anchor the overall sound and provide it with a fullness missing on some thinner releases like Flight of the Cosmic Hippo, while keeping the band from soaring through vast soundscapes like they did on Live Art and Outbound.

Still, the sound is good and familiar. What struck me in the early listening was how apparent it was, perhaps for the first time (at least to this degree), that this is a jazz group. I never balked at their situation in the jazz racks at the local radio station, but listening to Rocket Science, it’s clear they belong there. Maybe it’s Levy’s piano, but more likely it’s the more cohesively rhythmic ensemble playing that populates the meat of these songs.

Longtime saxophonist Jeff Coffin– he was with the group from 1998 until he left in 2008 to fill in for Dave Matthews’ fallen parter LeRoi Moore– is missed, but like all of Fleck’s bands’ lineups, they constantly remind you of their diverse strengths, never letting you consider potential weaknesses. Looking at some full-album reviews, I and you can look forward to some masterful work by bass guitar master Victor Wooten in the later tracks, which isn’t surprising news, but it certainly is welcome.

I first saw the Flecktones in Michigan circa 1998, when they were opening for the band Coffin eventually would join, and I saw them on their own when I was in college in New York. Back in MI, I’m planning to catch them again tonight, when they’ll share an outdoor stage with Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers. It should be summertime sonic fun of the first degree, and I look forward to noting the results in the coming days.