By Andy J. Gordon
The term “supergroup” gets used far too frequently and is rarely justified. Tedeschi Trucks Band truly earn the title every day and with their new album “Let Me Get By”, the amazing ensemble just keep getting better. Since their formation in 2010, the band, led by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, has toured the world while also releasing four albums (three studio and one live). “Let Me Get By” is a masterpiece of original songs that incorporate influences from rock, blues, soul and R&B. After five plus years together, the new album is a culmination of the talent and teamwork of this amazing assemblage of players.
Tedeschi and Trucks are always front and center in anything the band does, whether it is their blistering live shows or their incredibly well structured studio material. Tedeschi uses her dynamically soulful voice to express a variety of moods throughout the new album. Her vocals are powerful, emotional and one of the greatest instruments in music today. While there is no disputing her vocal talent, she also gets to showcase her guitar work, often overlooked since teaming up with Trucks. Her sweet solo on “Don’t Know What It Means” and strong playing on the other tracks reestablishes her skills with the axe.
Trucks has been a freak of nature since he picked up the guitar. His unique talent with the slide is so monumental that it makes his selfless, quiet persona all the more unusual. On the new album he adds the role of producer to his lead guitar brilliance. His solos are never overblown and continue to blaze new trails. As a producer he has a great future. Harnessing the abilities of the eleven excellent musicians could have been unwieldy in someone else’s hands. With Trucks at the helm, the group sounds amazing. The songs have a great flow and fit together to form an expertly constructed album.
While Tedeschi handles most of the vocals, she is supported beautifully by a trio of strong backup singers in Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chekour. Their harmonies nicely enhance the rich sound of the songs. Each singer is capable of being the lead vocalist and Mattison finally gets some of the spotlight. On “Right On Time” he shares principal vocals with Tedeschi. On “Crying Over You” Mattison handles lead himself with Rivers and Tedeschi doing some beautiful harmonizing.
The other band members excel without stepping on each other’s sound. Tim Lefebvre is the newest member of the group having replaced bassist Oteil Burbridge late in 2013. Lefebvre is having quite a successful start to 2016. He also played bass on all of the tracks on David Bowie’s recently released album Blackstar. Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson form an impressive double drum team. Kofi Burbridge plays an infectious organ riff on the title track and makes fine contributions on keys as well as flute on the other album tracks.
The horn section of Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Maurice Brown on trumpet and Saunders Sermons on trombone can compete with any of the great funk, soul or R&B groups of the past. Longtime friend and occasional collaborator Doyle Bramhall II (Eric Clapton band) joins the fun as co-producer on “Just As Strange,” “Hear Me” and “I Want More” while providing additional guitar work on a few of the tracks.
“Let Me Get By” is sure to be on the best album lists of 2016. Tedeschi Trucks band is at the top of their game and continue to create outstanding new music that draws on their various influences. Here is hoping they stay the course and keep making beautiful music.
Photos courtesy of Tedeschi Trucks Band.