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Tedeschi Trucks – The Sky is Crying at Royal Albert Hall


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Tedeschi Trucks - The Sky is Crying at Royal Albert Hall


Derek Trucks – Guitar

Susan Tedeschi – Guitar & Vocals

Kofi Burbridge – Keyboards & Flute

Tyler Greenwell – Drums & Percussion

J.J. Johnson – Drums & Percussion

Mike Mattison – Harmony Vocals

Mark Rivers – Harmony Vocals

Kebbi Williams – Saxophone

Maurice Brown – Trumpet

Saunders Sermons – Trombone

Tim Lefebvre – Bass Guitar


Some risks are worth taking. When Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi decided three years ago to dispense with their much-loved individual bands and pool their talents, they had no way of knowing what the public reaction might be to the new hybrid. They found out quickly enough when Revelator, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s 2011 studio debut, excited their sizable, devoted fan bases and the movers and shakers of the music industry alike, landing TTB both a Best Blues Album Grammy and a Blues Music Award for Album of the Year. Their live followup, Everybody’s Talkin’—documenting what many were already regarding as one of the most superb concert acts around not even two years into their existence—continued that forward momentum and picked up a Blues Music Award for Best Rock Blues Album (Susan, Derek and TTB itself each took home separate Blues Music Awards in 2012 as well).Now, with the release of Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks, August 20, 2013), there isn’t a shred of doubt that Susan Tedeschi, her husband and creative collaborator, Derek Trucks, and their superb bandmates are on to something—something very big.For Derek and Susan, TTB’s strength in numbers—the band presently comprises 10 members (plus a revolving cast of bassists)—virtually guaranteed that a wide range of influences would steer the music to new, previously unexplored places. That diversity is evident throughout Made Up Mind. “I felt that with the personnel in this band, it was just a matter of time before all of these ideas started leaking out,” says Trucks. “As things progress, and as the band grows, I think that is inevitable. But we had a lot of confidence that it was going to be really good right out of the gate.”

It took a while for that gate to swing open, but it was worth the wait. Derek and Susan didn’t want to rush into things, and paced themselves until they were certain that each musician they brought into the fold was an equal, someone who would elevate the band to new plateaus musically. Today, as the result of carefully building it from scratch, Tedeschi Trucks Band is nothing less than one big happy family, a traveling roots music circus of sorts, roving from town to town and pulling out all the stops along the way, never knowing just what will be the highlight of tonight’s show or which band member will be the one to shine in the next moment. Each member of TTB is a strong enough force to be a bandleader in his own right, but the chemical reaction that takes place when they all come together results in a mighty sound that’s even greater than the sum of its considerable parts.

Both Kofi Burbridge and Mike Mattison, for example, were longtime members of The Derek Trucks Band, Mike as lead vocalist and Kofi—who contributes his harmonic expertise to arrangements—as keyboardist and flutist. The horn men—Kebbi Williams, Maurice Brown and Saunders Sermons—are each outstanding players who together give Tedeschi Trucks Band a soulful thrust and who, separately, are soloists of extreme agility and creativity. Saunders also proves himself an asset in the vocals department on Made Up Mind—his duet with Susan on the track “Part of Me” opens the band up to even more possibilities. Mark Rivers is another formidable vocalist and the drummers, Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, provide a virtual twin rhythmic engine. The first time the pair sat at their respective kits and started to bash away, everyone in the room knew immediately that this was a drum team that was meant to be.

From their first gigs, TTB was a sensation among audiences, but for Susan and Derek, adulation is nothing new. On her own, before the formation of Tedeschi Trucks Band, Susan had already racked up five Grammy nominations, in three different categories. Her catalog of pre-TTB recordings, beginning in the mid-’90s and culminating in 2008’s Back to the River, personified American roots music—she’s been praised for her insightful songwriting, galvanizing, emotive vocals and her blues-informed, gutsy guitar style. Her playing has, in fact, blossomed even more since the formation of TTB. As renowned a guitarist as Derek is, one listen to a track like “Whiskey Legs” is proof that Susan is more than holding her own up there, that her exceptional playing is as essential to the total TTB picture as Derek’s, that her instrumental voice is as moving as her singing voice. And that singing voice is like none other on the scene today.

“I started singing when I was a little girl, before I even spoke,” Susan says. “My mom said I used to sing every morning in the crib and make up songs. I remember hearing Judy Garland when I was about 3 and I said, ‘Wow, that’s a voice! I want to do that.’ I started acting onstage when I was 6 and had my first major role in the chorus of Oliver. Then I continued to do a lot of theater. I was always doing a show.”

Theater eventually lost its luster for her though, and at the same time music beckoned. “I started being in bands and playing guitar, mostly acoustic, at 14,” she says, “and that’s when I started writing and making up songs. It wasn’t until I was around 21 that I said, ‘I really want to learn how to play this thing.’ I played piano and clarinet but I never really played the guitar. I never had lessons other than my dad showing me a couple of chords, so I got a bunch of blues records and had some friends who were blues fans who needed singers and I sang every Sunday for about a year. Before you knew it, I was getting up and playing rhythm guitar and learning how to play with a band. I really wanted to be able to accompany myself. That was a big life-changer for me.”