Back in 2009, vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi and guitarist Derek Trucks formed a band they dubbed Soul Stew Revival, devoted almost exclusively to vintage r&b material. The presence of cover material on Live Everybody's Talkin' hearkens to that side project which, in the interim, has become a full-time endeavor for its principals and an even greater labor of love.
The title track, in fact, suggests the focus of the Tedeschi Trucks Band on structured but stylish arrangements in which well-placed solos add to the atmosphere conjured by the ensemble playing. On Fred Neil's title tune, the fleet motion of the eleven-piece lineup belies its size. The dual drumming of Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson undulates as gracefully at the bottom as the horns of saxophonist Kebbi Williams, trumpeter Maurice Brown and trombonist Saunders Sermons add grace and grandeur similar to that which adorns "Don't Let Me Slide."
John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon" is homage of a different sort, specifically a tribute to an admitted inspiration for TTB: Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen. The warmth in Susan Tedeschi's voice combines with an affection in her vocal delivery that turns this into a personal expression of emotion. "Rollin' & Tumblin'" is the only overt recognition of the blues at the roots of both Tedeschi and Trucks, but it functions well here as the antithesis of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight:" at sixteen minutes, the latter performance goes on too long insofar it is more a crowd-pleasing gesture, not the scintillating group improvisation the unit hinted at through the first disc.
The impact of the second half of Everybody's Talkin' is further muffled, and markedly so, with its conclusion via the traditional "Wade in the Water." Much too obvious a nod to the spiritual quality intrinsic to this music, this cover suffers in comparison to TTB's own "Bound for Glory" where the same sentiment comes across in a more subtle but no less deeply felt manner.
Selections such as that from Revelator (Sony Masterworks, 2011) appear elsewhere here in extended versions that highlight the versatility of the band, if not a genuine inclination for extended jams. The drama of Trucks' intro to the aforementioned neo-gospel cut is amplified by keyboards from Kofi Burbridge, who, with his bassist brother Oteil, are the foundation of this ensemble; meanwhile, Tedeschi sings with a smooth confidence that nevertheless never comes across as just facile: she feels it just as much as she and the rest of TTB ask their audience to.
Vocalist mainstay Mike Mattison's "Midnight in Harlem," gorgeous a tune as it is, intoned passionately by the composer himself and Tedeschi, belongs to Derek Trucks. During his intro, he interpolates "Swamp Raga," from his eponymous debut album, with "Little Martha," the late Duane Allman
's Eat A Peach (Capricorn, 1972), while his extended solo lifts the whole band to heights of bittersweet intensity the likes of which are absent from the rest of this album.
In lieu of pure spontaneity, there's as much craft at work on stage with TTB as in the studio, a virtue accentuated by production from Trucks himself (though fans of the group were initially invited to choose tunes). The final mix from Jim Scott, who worked on the group's Grammy Award-winning studio debut as well as The Wood Brothers' Smoke Ring Halo (Southern Ground, 2010) possesses clarity and polish magnified through the expert mastering of Bob Ludwig. As a result, the sound of the recording is a pleasure in and of itself, though it doesn't quite compensate for shortage of instrumental fireworks.
Coming slightly less than a year after the release of the Tedeschi Trucks Band debut, the stylish packaging and the carefully-produced content of Live: Everybody's Talkin' can only further its mainstream recognition. At the same time, this concert package represents the culmination of its collaborative efforts over the last few years.
Track Listing: CD1: Everybody's Talkin'; Midnight in Harlem; Learn How to Love; Bound for Glory; Rollin' and Tumblin'; Nobody's Free; Darlin' Be Home Soon. CD2: That Did It; Uptight; Love Has Something Else to Say(With Kissing My Love); Wade in the Water.