Let Me Get By

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Swamp Family Music, 2016


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The part where the Tedeschi Trucks Band sounds like Bonnie Raitt jamming with the Allman Brothers should come as no surprise at all—not when co-bandleader / husband / slide guitarist supreme Derek Trucks is the son of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks and a former member of the group, and co-bandleader / wife / guitarist / lead vocalist Susan Tedeschi presents like a long-lost cousin of Raitt’s, another guitar-slinging blues-rocker with an earthy voice full of grit and fire.

The element of surprise enters when you add the deep well of soul contributed by the 12-piece band’s keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, a fat horn section (Kebbi Williams on sax, Maurice Brown on trumpet, and the wonderfully-named Saunders Sermons on trombone), and harmony vocalists Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour. Put it all together and what emerges sounds like the Allmans plus Raitt times Sly & The Family Stone, a ginormous blues-Americana-gospel-soul-jam-roots-big-band collective that delivers an earthy, dynamic wall of sound that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen or heard.

The collective’s third studio album in five years features a baker’s dozen of players when you add guest guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, yet every song is thoughtfully arranged to provide ample space to deploy different elements of the ensemble—two or three guitarists, three or four vocalists, keys, bass, two drummers and three horns—for maximum impact. In similar fashion, most of the songs here are collaborative efforts credited to some combination of Trucks, Tedeschi, Mattison, Burbridge, bassist Tim Lefebvre and Bramhall.

This album’s knockout opener “Anyhow” epitomizes the drive and impact this lineup is capable of manifesting, a tune that steadily rises up from a soft murmur to a joyous shout. Burbridge, Lefebvre and drummers Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson keep the first verse on simmer as Trucks and Bramhall tiptoe along, gaining steam with the first chorus, where the background chorus and horns come in. At the bridge, the horns lift the whole tune on their back, powering into Chicago territory with a punchy fanfare before they drop back into the third verse. By the end, the track has begun to feel less like a song than a three-act gospel-funk tent revival, as the voices, guitars, horns, keys, and locked-in rhythm section achieve lift-off once and for all. As Trucks unleashes a typically fiery, expressive solo over the closing jam you see how all these pieces fit together, how elements jump forward and fall back, each respecting the other’s musical space, everyone working together in service of the song.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That’s the album in a nutshell, right there, but let’s explore a little further, shall we? “Rise Up” accents the gospel, with voice and horns providing the light while keys and guitar deliver the darker undertones. “Don’t Know What It Means” delivers a knockout punch of soul-funk, from Burbridge’s moody organ work to the chunky rhythm guitar, feisty horn pumps and chorused background vocals. Best of all is when they break it down to just voices, horns and handclaps just before the end; it swings like anything, and then Williams blows a lurching, jazzy sax solo over the finish.

“Right On Time” and “Crying Over You” both feature the terrific Mike Mattison on lead vocals, with Tedeschi on harmonies; Mattison was lead vocalist in the old Derek Trucks Band. The former delivers a slice of woozy New Orleans-inflected soul-jazz with sassy trumpet and slinky keys, while the latter really does feel like a lost Family Stone number, complete with funked-up rhythm guitar, gospel organ, a stinging Trucks solo, and roughly a thousand woo-hoo-hoos from the chorus of harmony vocalists.

Tedeschi takes a vocal spotlight on the gentle, keening ballad “Hear Me,” her soulful lead vocal complemented and counterpointed beautifully by Trucks’ paintbrush slide work. Seconds later we’re in a full-on circa-1971 big-band soul revue as the horn section leads the way into the Aretha-worthy jam “I Want More.” (This initially wonderful track is also the only place where the band lost me, delving into an extended Burbridge-Trucks flute-guitar duet in the latter half of the song that feels like it’s part of a different song altogether.)

I’ve saved one of the best for last. The gospel-funk title track features rippling Kofi Burbridge organ figures on the verses that give way to a booming horns-and-vocals chorale on the choruses that achieves a spectacular sense of uplift. That uplift is, in the end, the central vibe and message here. These are songs of devotion, determination, and desire, but mostly they feel like one long celebration of community, a bubbling crowd of musicians celebrating each other and the sheer joy of making music together.

Produced by Trucks in his and Tedeschi’s home studio Swamp Raga, Let Me Get By finds this unique musical collective continuing to grow in spirit and reach, drawing from blues, gospel, soul, jazz and Southern rock to create a rich stew of deeply American songcraft that overflows with belief in one another and the awe-inspiring power of music made together. “In every heart there’s a voice / Getting a word in through all that noise”—yes indeed there is, and it comes through loud and clear on Let Me Get By.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2016 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Swamp Family Music, and is used for informational purposes only.