Sunday, May 21, 2017

Austin City Limits: Tedeschi Trucks Band (KLRU, LickonaVision, PBS, 2016)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2017 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

After those shows I watched Austin City Limits in its “ghetto” time slot on KPBS, midnight to 1 a.m., featuring the Tedeschi Trucks Band (no hyphen in the name even though it represents the band’s co-leaders, guitarist Derek Trucks (whose uncle, Butch Trucks, was the drummer for the original Allman Brothers Band — Derek himself also played for a later edition of the Allman Brothers Band) and vocalist and guitarist Susan Tedeschi, who are also husband and wife. (There’s an ironic interview at the end of this show in which Trucks noted that they found it easier to get married, have children and raise their family than it was to co-lead a band together!) I’d heard of this group before as one of the many, almost innumerable Allman Brothers spinoffs, but I’d never heard them before. They turned out to be quite good, mainly due to Susan Tedeschi, who reminded me a good deal of Bonnie Raitt — they’re both white women singers and blues guitarists, they have similar vocal timbres and they manage to sing soulfully without resorting to the ornamentation and “worrying” of their Black models — and who proved herself as capable a lead guitarist as her husband. Interestingly, they played only seven songs during this 50-minute appearance (Austin City Limits runs in an hour-long time slot but there are so many promos, interviews and “enhanced underwriting opportunities,” PBS’s Newspeak for “commercials,” the bands actually get to play for only 50 minutes and most Austin City Limits episode split the time between two music acts), indicating a penchant for 1960’s-style long rock jams — the final song they played, which I think was called “Midnght Down in Harley” (or was that supposed to be “Harlem”?), began with a long, atmospheric guitar solo by Trucks that had little to do with blues or with the song once it emerged from the textures and Tedeschi began to sing. If this show had a flaw it’s that the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s songs sound too similar to each other; aside from covers of the Box Tops’ “The Letter” and Tim Hardin’s “Bird on a Wire,” they were all mid-tempo pop-blues that showed off Tedeschi’s voice effectively but pretty much plowed the same musical territory.