You almost get the impression that the Tedeschi Trucks Band will settle for nothing less than perfection, particularly when you listen to their previous two albums. For those of us who have been patiently waiting for another Tedeschi Trucks masterpiece since 2013’s Made Up Mind we are already well aware, they don’t rush things. The Tedeschi Trucks Band know how to do it properly, they know how to produce damn near perfect results. Their new album “Let Me Get By” carries on in the TTB tradition of having a clean, surgical sound and yet possessing bags of the blues and soul that we have come to love about this hybrid 12-piece outfit.
Now for a bit of history, you can’t exactly say that the group burst onto the scene. In 2010 husband and wife Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi put their own bands on hiatus to work on material together amongst friends and other musicians. The result was better than we all could have possibly expected, and a hybrid of both the Derek Trucks Band and Susan Tedeschi Band was formed. Given their individual band naming habits and Derek’s tenure in the Allman Brothers Band, why name this project anything other than the Tedeschi Trucks Band? Anyone would look at this outfit and assume that their music was going to be the opposite of original, how wrong we were.
Whilst fusing two bands together, touring and jamming together in mid 2011 the group released their debut album Revelator. Reaching number 12 on the Billboard 200 the album was a perfect blend of soulful melodies and moderate blues rock, the album set a benchmark for the group, particularly for slick production and tight song arrangement. Well arranged tracks like Midnight In Harlem and Learn How To Love quickly became Spotify favourites for us. They followed up this initial success two years later with the superb Made Up Mind in 2013, building on the roots of Revelator the group excelled themselves on tracks like the title track Made Up Mind and the beautifully mellow Do I Look Worried. This reached 11 in the album charts and the album helped the group to nominations at the Blues Music Awards. Not a bad rebirth for some blues scene veterans?
So who’s in the band? Derek and Susan regularly depart from the forefront to shine some light on the rest of the lineup. Throughout all three of their records its fair to say that no one person is left behind and everyone pulls their weight. Susan Tedeschi is the head of the pyramid, providing stunning, mature lead vocals whilst never accused of hiding behind her role on the rhythm guitar. Husband Derek Trucks excels on lead guitar, and has spent enough time alongside the Allmans to know how and when to take lead and when to dive back into the riff. Tim Lefebvre is on Bass and Kofi Burbridge plays the keyboards whilst also taking charge on some interesting flute arrangements. Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson share the drums and percussion creating a fuller sound on the group’s well-engineered records. Harmony vocals are covered by Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and since 2015 Alecia Chakour. Mike Mattison takes on lead vocals on two tracks on Let Me Get By. Bands on a smaller budget and with less respect for the depth in a song will have missed out on Kebbi Williams on Sax, Ephraim Owens on Trumpet and Elizabeth Lea on Trombone. In my opinion the group is well balanced, no one giving a poor account of themselves, no one to be lost in austerity.
Let Me Get By takes Tedeschi Trucks Band to the next level, but is by no means a departure from their previous work. The album starts strong, building up throughout the opener Anyhow. Normally I would say you’d be mad to open with a track like this, but the introduction of a brief brass interlude at 2:45 explains why. They’re showing the team off. You’ll find yourself at your desk at work in a few days time randomly humming this whether you’re happy, or whether you’re sad. Laugh About It is much like the opener in that it builds throughout the song, starting with a lonely Derek Trucks riff its obvious by the end that they are all here to showcase their talents.
Now for your first hit of blues, Don’t Know What It Means makes good use of Susan Tedeschi’s vocal range. The chorus is another that you might just find yourself letting loose in the shower, the backing vocals here give it a real gospel feel. Its worth noting that the first three tracks here have taken us beyond 17 minutes, and we haven’t had even a brief spell of boredom. Mike Mattison takes a dive into lead vocals on Right On Time being well supported by the brass here, and eventually by Susan Tedeschi. The bluesy duets we certainly want to hear much of. The title track Let Me Get By will get the crowds singing at gigs but is also an opportunity to show off Kofi on keyboards. Throughout the album so far Derek has been letting everyone know he is the band leader, but doesn’t have the Joe Bonamassa ”you have one note, i’ll have four” about him.
Just over the halfway mark Just As Strange has a massive hit of the Allman Brothers about it, on the borderlines of country especially with Tedeschi’s refined vocals. The album-in-itself 8 minute Crying Over You… starts at Marvin Gaye moving onto a memorable tune before finishing with a relaxing flute and acoustic guitar finish. The album doesn’t end in a hurry, but across the last 3 tracks you know that the album is coming to and end. Hear Me has the potential to be a good single again with excellent vocals, I Want More finishes with flute and electric guitar this time. Finally, In Every Heart unleashes the inner gospel choir, finishing with a Trucks guitar solo before Susan Tedeschi sings out the final words with no backing band at all.
The album is a journey from start to finish, one that is a path that I urge you to travel for yourself. It blends in well with the Tedeschi Trucks back catalogue, but by no means in requirement of prior listening. It needs listening to in its entirety, whilst satisfaction can be found in individual songs, each one feels like its part of a collection. Tedeschi and Trucks are of course band leaders, but writing duties extend to many others and this is evident throughout the album. I cannot rate this highly enough, all genres can listen without feeling like they are being blues’d to death.
Moving forward the Tedeschi Trucks Band need to keep putting out material to that quality – we are well prepared to wait another 3 years for something that has songwriting, talent and engineering and production quality in abundance like this. Make your views known in the comments below. Now go away and listen til the early hours.