Quick takes: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Royal Southern Brotherhood offer great examples of blues power in numbers

Recent events and travels have prevented us from writing about much of the great new music that has found its way to our doorstep lately, but here are a couple of the releases that have caught our ear in recent weeks.

Tedeschi Trucks Band, Everybody’s Talkin’ (Sony Masterworks)
While nothing compares to seeing and hearing the 11-member Tedeschi Trucks Band in the flesh, this live double disc set is perhaps the next best thing, featuring just the right mix of songs from the band’s Grammy Award-winning debut Revelator in addition to covers of tunes from Bobby “Blue” Bland (“That Did It”), Elmore James (“Rollin’ and Tumblin'”), Joe Cocker (“Darling Be Home Soon”), and Stevie Wonder (“Uptight”), among others, as well as a brand new track in “Nobody’s Free.”

A soulful take on Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin'” opens the set, reminding us within the first ninety seconds of some of the things we like so much about the band, including Tedeschi’s gripping voice, tight instrumentation in the form of guitar and drums, fine back-up vocals, and horns – all long before Trucks’ first solo on slide guitar. Many of the Revelator tunes have been enhanced with new parts or arrangements, such as the quiet “Swamp Raga”/”Little Martha” intro to “Midnight in Harlem,” the expanded horns and guitars on “Learn How to Love,” a nearly 13-minute “Bound for Glory” with some particularly fine interplay between keyboards, guitar, and horns about midway through, followed by some pretty glorious guitar work, and a funky, 11-minute “Love Has Something Else to Say” that also allows trombonist Saunders Sermons a turn on vocals with the addition of Bill Withers’ “Kissing My Love.”

TTB_ETAs good as the band sounds together, it’s often the individual touches that help this ensemble rise to a whole ‘nother level, as demonstrated in moments such as the three and half minute slide solo from Trucks that closes “Midnight in Harlem,” Kofi Burbridge’s flute solo during the powerful “Nobody’s Free,” and Tedeschi’s gritty guitar work to match her husky vocals on disc two’s opening “That Did It,” also one of the band’s tightest numbers. The fifteen-and-a-half minute “Uptight” is a true combination of parts, with horns given a prominent role early on, followed by a jazzy solo from bassist Oteil Burbridge before the track culminates with a four-minute drum solo.

A soft, slow take on “Darling Be Home Soon” nicely showcases the band’s background vocals and, again, horns, with the 11-song set closing on the gospel sounds of the traditional “Wade in the Water,” a perfect way to wind down from the energy heard throughout most of the rest of the recording. With two superb albums now under their belt in only their first year, it’s looking pretty certain that everybody will be talkin’ about the Tedeschi Trucks Band for a long time to come.

Royal Southern Brotherhood, Royal Southern Brotherhood (Ruf Records)
Even though it doesn’t have quite as many members as the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Royal Southern Brotherhood doesn’t pack any less of a punch. Another celebrity gathering of sorts made up of guitarists Devon Allman (who father Gregg states in his recent memoir “can play the fucking blues”) and Mike Zito along with percussionist Cyril Neville of Neville Brothers and The Meters fame, joined by Charlie Wooton on bass and Yonrico Scott (Derek Trucks Band) on drums, Royal Southern Brotherhood makes a strong statement on their self-titled debut (Ruf Records).

rsbProduced by the legendary Jim Gaines (Luther Allison, Albert Collins, Blues Traveler, George Thorogood, Albert Cummings, Joanne Shaw Taylor) at Louisiana’s Dockside Studio, the album is a rich, cohesive collection of blues-rock sounds that could very easily have come across like a various artist compilation but doesn’t, with Allman, Zito, and the 63-year-old Neville all sharing in vocals as well as contributing musically on each of the dozen tracks. It starts, fittingly enough, on a smoky “New Horizons” with Rolling Stones-styled riffs in addition to some other fine guitar work and vocals, before moving to the Santana-like tones and Spanish percussion of “Fired Up!” Having previously collaborated on the writing of the 2010 Blues Music Award-winning Song of the Year in Zito’s “Pearl River,” Zito and Neville again worked together to pen a number of tracks here, including “New Horizons,” the flowing R&B sounds of “Moonlight Over the Mississippi,” and a slow, gritty “Ways About You” that also benefits from Zito’s appropriately anguished vocals.

The 36-year-old Allman’s soulful “Left My Heart in Memphis” is another slow but steady number, with Zito contributing some nice country-tinged blues on “Hurts My Heart.” While some might be ready to declare the power ballad “Gotta Keep Rockin'” as the band’s anthem, it’s hard to do any better than tracks like “Sweet Jelly Donut” with its funky New Orleans sounds and lyrics or the modern-day Bob Marley-like take on “Fire on the Mountain” (Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter), also previously covered by the Neville Brothers. One of the tastiest examples of double entendre we’ve heard in quite a while, the swinging, Neville-penned “Sweet Jelly Donut” takes you on a wild ride through the Crescent City, encountering the likes of Dr. John, Kermit Ruffins, Trombone Shorty, and the Soul Rebels, all accented by some neat percussion and guitar; it may not exactly satisfy your appetite, but it certainly will satisfy your soul.

Throughout it all, the band is solid but never overbearing, with two more strong numbers before the album’s close, in the Zito-led “All Around the World” and the snazzy instrumental “Brotherhood,” featuring some particularly catchy bass work from Wooton along with a nice mix of percussion and guitar, including some of the Allman Brothers-sounding variety.

Here’s hoping this Brotherhood enjoys the same type of longevity and recognition as the bands that already bear some of its members’ last names.

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