Sound — 9
The Tedeschi Trucks Band is a blues band, primarily, featuring eleven solid musicians. Its two most prominent members are singer Susan Tedeschi and slide guitarist Derek Trucks, who happen to be married. Derek Trucks is a name some of you may have heard, as he is currently a permanent member of The Allman Brothers Band and he was the only guitarist under thirty-five to be included in the "Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list. Though many think this list is flawed, it is still quite an accomplishment and it is certainly one worthy of respect just as an acceptance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is even though many think this club is flawed as well. This album is the Tedeschi Trucks Band's second release since its inception in 2010.
Now, one of the first things people think of when they think "Tedeschi Trucks Band" is long, drawn-out jamming. Though this is true of their live performances, this album mainly consists of concise, well thought out compositions. Note my use of the word "composition" instead of the word "song." Each are blues oriented, but they go far beyond the standard 12-bar blues and become their own, unique creation. Aside from Tedeschi's vocals, each "composition" is diverse and different, making this album a listening experience that wears slowly. From the standpoint of one who has never heard this band before, each song has at least one catchy riff that can make the album a fun time for anyone. And of course, for the purists, there is still enough jamming to satisfy fans as well as make this album even more interesting. To put it plainly, the Tedeschi Trucks Band crossed their T's and dotted their I's on this album.
As diverse and well thought out as the songs are, so is the rhythm section of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. While there is, in fact, an eleven-piece band, the pieces are seldom used as a whole. Sometimes, there is just a solid base consisting of guitar, bass, and drums. Other times, the keyboards decide to join in. Sometimes, a whole song will use the same instruments throughout whereas other times some instruments, like the stray acoustic guitar, will come and go as the situation deems it necessary. Of the entire rhythm section, the brass section shows the greatest effect when introduced into a song. This is somewhat because of the fact that the songs don't usually demand the brass section, so when they finally chime in, it greatly enhances the song and places obvious emphasis on the certain parts where they are present. Heck, even the flute comes in at the perfect time, providing a powerful flute line on the short instrumental "Idle Wind." And the best part, a necessity for almost any good album, is that all of the instruments, no matter how many or how few, coalesce beautifully.
Of course, this album (and band, for that matter) could not be what it is without the guidance and leadership of Derek Trucks. He wasn't put in the Rolling Stone list for nothing. He utilizes a tone that always cuts through the mix and sure makes a statement when he arrives, almost like the brass section does, except, well, an electric guitar like his has more balls, if you know what I mean. His taste and choice of how and when to strike (I guess, a part of taste) is impeccable. His lead guitar playing is reason enough to buy this album, but the magnificent songwriting still manages to outshine his playing.
Lyrics — 6
Susan Tedeschi's vocals are the only underwhelming part of the album. She has a great voice, but she just didn't suit it to the album well. She definitely attempts to wail like an old blues singer, but she doesn't have the spirit. Tedeschi's vocals are too perfected. Janis Joplin didn't have the prettiest voice, but the listener could feel the pain, the hardship, in her crackly, deep cry. Tedeschi doesn't show the pain, the anguish in her voice that makes a powerful, soulful blues singer. If you want to see a modern example of the power I'm talking about, I suggest listening to "Weatherman" by Dead Sara. If one compared Tedeschi's voice to the voice from "Weatherman," one could picture, as I do, that Tedeschi is kind of a pampered good-girl who is faking her whole shtick, in a way.
Being that as it is, Tedeschi has a beautiful voice that deserves at least a rating of "average" even if it does not, in my considered opinion, fit the music.
Lyrically, the album is below average. It appears that the lyrics follow the song titles a bit too much for comfort and that the lyrics, and song titles, usually have no relationship to the vibe of the music or the feel of Tedeschi's vocals. The lyrics of rock-related music are usually nothing for philosophers to ponder over; what really matters is how the rudimentary, easy to understand lyrics mesh with the vibe of the music, enabling them to affect the song and even people's lives.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, "Made Up Mind" is a great sophomore effort on the part of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The diverse songwriting, along with Truck's excellent lead playing, gives this album its identity. This is a great step forward for the Tedeschi Trucks Band and they could really blossom into something special. As a side note, my two favorite songs were "The Storm" and "Do I Look Worried."
Though Tedeschi's vocals keep this album from reaching its full potential, it will nevertheless be on repeat on my iPod for some time. The guitars are too overpowering, if you know what I mean.