The Roots Report: Tedeschi-Trucks Band

Derek_Trucks_and_Susan_Tedeschi_1Okee dokee folks … I had the opportunity to check out the Tedeschi-Trucks Band/Shawn Mullins show at the Providence Performing Arts Center this past Saturday night. Mullins opened the night with a solo acoustic set. The Georgia-born performer accompanied himself on guitar as he played songs from his recently released CD, My Stupid Heart and others from his 25-plus year career. His rich baritone voice, talking/singing vocal style, and intense guitar playing drew a warm response from the audience who were still filling the seats as he worked his way through the set. Mullins is best known for his 1998 hit single, “Lullaby,” which was his third song of the night. He told the crowd that it was written at a Chinese restaurant in California called Ghengis Cohen. It was obvious that Mullins is veteran of performing folk venues from his between song banter. As he was tuning his guitar he mentioned, “I can tell you all haven’t had a lot to drink yet, you are still pretty quiet.” He went on to say, “I loved watching their (Tedeschi-Trucks’) careers happen…I played with Derek first in 1994, I think he was just 13 years old… the venue owner thought the band’s name was Derek’s Truck!” He added, “It’s a pleasure to play in this wonderful, wonderful place!” His next song, “Pre-Apocalyptic Blues” was a well-crafted song with the refrain “Be ready when the shit goes down.” The song included references to many styles of assault weapons. Even though it is from his new release, I think that it was a poor choice to play considering the current climate of gun-troversy. He followed with the more appropriate “The Ghost of Johnny Cash.” Mullins closed his set with a rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun.” Honestly, I would think a performer of his acclaim could have selected a song that hasn’t been played to death. I was obviously wrong about this as it received the strongest applause of his set. The house gave him a standing ovation as he left the stage.

The Tedeschi-Trucks 11-member band took the stage about 9:06pm. The group of musicians included a three-piece horn section, three backing vocalists, two drummers, bass, keys and Tedeschi and Trucks on guitars. Boston native Susan Tedeschi immediately asked the capacity crowd if anyone had made the trip down from Boston. A few folks clapped in response and she thanked them for making the trip. The band then launched right into what would be a two-hour show. Their repertoire incorporated original material as well as classic covers. Tedeschi was front and center and belted out song after song with her Bonnie Raitt-ish vocals. Derek Trucks did not say a word on mic all evening. He was there to play guitar. Trucks is not a flashy guitarist, he plays straight — no frilly effects, and the same guitar all night. The long bearded and pony-tailed Trucks reminded me of a medieval monk in profile as he was hunched over his Gibson SG guitar and stayed close to Tedeschi’s right. Feet firmly planted, he dug into many long solos. Other solos throughout the evening involved sax, trumpet, flute, drum and even Tedeschi showing off her guitar chops. Original songs in the show included “Don’t Know What It Means” and “Anyhow” from the upcoming Let Me Get By album. They covered Derek and the Dominos’ “Keep On Growing” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire.” Tedeschi messed up a song, stopped and said, “I haven’t played this one in a while” and then started into Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.”  After that song she said, “Thanks for putting up with me,” and then continued, “Today is our thirteenth anniversary.” For those of you who don’t know, Derek and Susan are a married, musical, power couple. Occasionally Tedeschi would just take the mic, sans guitar, and stick to her vocals. At one point she stepped into the back-up vocalist position and filled in for Mike Mattison when he took the lead. The program was chock full of rockin’, jazzy, bluesy and soulful songs that seemed to fully satisfy the fans. The highlight of the set was a song that I THINK was called “The Storm.” The band slowly stripped down to a five-piece unit and then built back up. Trucks showed fully his virtuosity with this one, at one point even tweaking the tuning of his instrument while effortlessly playing it. The music was accented by strobe and colored lights that painted color on an eerie, bare tree backdrop. They concluded the night’s set with “Idle Wind” after which Tedeschi tried to thank and introduce her band mates but wound up alone on the stage and then exited. A soft but steady applause brought the band back. Tedeshi thanked her parents, friends and family, who were in attendance and seemed to be numerous. Once again she channeled Joe Cocker and they performed his version of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Tedeschi did some vocal vamping while Trucks riffed. Tedeschi then thanked Shawn Mullins and wished all Happy Holidays.

Folks got quite the bang for the admission: Tedeschi-Trucks and Shawn Mullin. It had been about 10 years since I’d seen Susan Tedeschi, but had not yet seen Trucks or Mullin live. It was quite an enjoyable evening of satisfying music but as good as it was, I could have lived without the drum solos!


That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.