critic’s pick 230

On a dynamic new concert recording, the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi have all but redefined the jam band fabric as we have come to know it over the past two decades. And they do so not by cultivating new, modernized means of improvisation but by tossing the whole genre headfirst into soul music tradition.

Everybody’s Talkin’ offers an extensive performance look at the Tedechi Trucks Band pieced together from shows last October in Toronto, Washington and Bridgeport, Conn.

Guitarist Trucks, not surprisingly, has a field day displaying his typically versed songbook of guitar influences – from the tasty slide grace of Duane Allman (founder of the Allman Brothers Band, which Trucks also serves in) peppered throughout the album to the frenzied variation on jazz giant Wes Montgomery’s rhythmic playing during the home stretch of  Nobody’s Free to a raga-like solo reminiscent of early ‘70s Carlos Santana that opens Midnight in Harlem. But the one doing the singing on Everybody’s Talkin’ is Mrs. Trucks.

Tedeschi long ago proved her might as a vocalist through recordings with her own band. But she has never sounded so grounded, assured and tireless as he does here. Her tone is husky, expressive and remarkably mature, which helps transform the blues classic Rollin’ and Tumblin’ into a brassy, roadhouse-worthy party tune that approximates rock pioneers like Ronnie Hawkins.

Representing a wholly different extreme is the album’s big curiosity, a lively update of John Sebastian’s Darling Be Home Soon. Here, Tedeschi’s vocals take a wonderfully torchy turn reminiscent of vintage Bonnie Raitt – that is, until Trucks takes over with a solo that recalls the winding turbulence of prog-rock guitar great Allan Holdsworth.

Though deceptively introverted in appearance onstage, Trucks plays with scholarly ingenuity throughout the album. During the 13 minute version of the band original Bound for Glory, Trucks works off of churchy organ runs and the band’s relaxed Southern shuffle to create a roaring slide guitar adventure that would do Brother Duane proud. And during Love Has Something to Say, Trucks’ beefy, wah-wah guitar lead proves a wonderful foil for Tedeschi’s vocal grind.

Amazingly, all this is but a fraction of the ground Everybody’s Talkin’ covers. The ensemble’s 11 players includes a full horn section, current Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and a repertoire that moves from loose, Traffic-style flute jams to the full tilt gospel drive of the album-closing cover of Wade in the Water.

There a few excesses, to be sure, such as the obligatory bass and drums solos situated in the middle of the Stevie Wonder classic Uptight. Mostly, though, this blues-soul feast abounds with spicy, inventive dialogue where everybody is indeed talking. But, more importantly, everyone has something intriguing to say.

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