Dixie Done Right
Led by man-and-wife pair Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, the Tedeschi Trucks Band makes a triumphant return to the studio with Made Up Mind, building on the strength of their Grammy Award-winning debut, Revelator. Without fail, the 11-piece group sounds every bit their size, fusing a number of country, funk and R&B sounds into a single, seamless expression. And—despite more of Trucks’ famed slide playing and Tedeschi’s always-excellent vocals—it’s hard to discern the standout performances, as the band’s stars routinely cohere in such a bright constellation.
With the Meters-style funk of “Misunderstood,” for instance, every part counts. Between a wah-wah riff and passages of church organ, the song’s big, soulful chorus is buttressed by a clamorous horn section. Over spirited backup vocals, Tedeschi’s strong and smoky bellows really take off for the outro, along with a concomitant response in Trucks’ wild-man guitar playing. “Part of Me” comes off like a more relaxed, doe-eyed version of Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man,” brimming with horns and smooth backup singing, as well as some quality, scrunched-face soloing by Trucks.
This sort of pristine coordination even extends to the slower tracks. “Do I Look Worried?” marries the bassline and trumpets of R&B with the juke-joint grit of Trucks’ ecstatic guitar, plus Tedeschi really gives it her all, sounding somewhere between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. The beautiful closer, “Calling Out to You,” pares the interplay down to two, as Trucks supplies a beautiful folk backing for Tedeschi’s emotive delivery. Subtle horns and backup harmonies are re-introduced in “Sweet and Low,” a lovely, crying-in-your-beer love song, and a similar dynamic is found in the emotionally burdened “It’s So Heavy.”
If Made Up Mind is anything, it’s remarkably consistent. The Tedeschi Trucks Band can do it all and—more importantly—do it all very well. Looking to the aforementioned “Do I Look Worried?” the song’s lyrics seem to speak of the ease and facility with which the players move: “We’ve been here so many times / I know you’ve fed me so many lines / Do I look worried to you?” Actually, no, as a matter of fact: Lead singer Tedeschi and the group never seem worried or, for that matter, the slightest bit out of their comfort zone. And it’s this kind of confidence, perhaps, that can only come from a Made Up Mind.