But the answer to the above question is simple: When the dynamic vocalist and guitarist Susan Tedeschi and her guitar virtuoso husband Derek Trucks merged their talents and constructed a new, 11-piece juggernaut, they were pooling many years of experience and collective musical knowledge. Derek—who has also been a mainstay of the legendary Allman Brothers Band for more than a decade, and leader of The Derek Trucks Band—first slung a guitar over his shoulders at age 9 and is currently ranked number 16 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. Susan is a roots music powerhouse who was nominated for five Grammys on her own, including Best New Artist in 2000, before the formation of TTB (as their fans have come to know them). Made Up Mind is where all of the instrumental, vocal and songwriting prowess of music’s greatest power couple—and that of their superb bandmates—truly meshes in a big way.
“We knew we wanted to be a little bit bolder with this record, not be afraid to do whatever we felt was really great,” says Tedeschi, who first met Derek in New Orleans in 1999 when her previous band was opening for an Allman Brothers Band tour. “We’re all friends and family. Now we’re finally making the music we want to make. It’s really an exciting time.”
Made Up Mind is nothing less than a quantum leap forward for TTB. If Revelator and Everybody’s Talkin’ were all about finding their way, the new effort is where they emerge as a fully formed band for the ages. Throughout the course of the album it becomes increasingly apparent that Susan Tedeschi has evolved into one of the most dauntingly commanding vocalists in contemporary music, her serious lung power exploding on standout tracks such as the uber-funky “Misunderstood” and just as convincingly digging into the core of poignant, tender acoustic ballads like “Calling Out to You” and “Idle Wind”. Derek Trucks has indisputably matured into one of the monster guitarists of our time, tearing up barnburners like the title track “Made Up Mind” with his masterful slide and lead licks while showcasing his easier, more subtle touch on the bluesy “Do I Look Worried”.
Co-produced by Jim Scott (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wilco) and Trucks—Made Up Mind was recorded in the band’s home base of Jacksonville at Derek and Susan’s Swamp Raga Studios. Working closely with Scott, who also engineered and mixed the album—and with whom Derek co-produced Revelator—Trucks’ ever-expanding expertise as a studio production whiz is displayed continually and definitively in the choices he made throughout the sessions. For Trucks, the studio has become another instrument to master, and Made Up Mind leaves no doubt that his skills as a producer now rank right alongside his expertise as a player and songwriter.
Although Tedeschi Trucks Band bears the names of its co-leaders, each of its components— Kofi Burbridge (keyboards, flute), Tyler Greenwell (drums, percussion), J.J. Johnson (drums, percussion), Kebbi Williams (saxophone), Maurice Brown (trumpet), Saunders Sermons (trombone & vocals), Mike Mattison (harmony vocals) and Mark Rivers (harmony vocals)—is operating at full throttle on Made Up Mind. There are no weak links—everyone here is contributing equally. Those keeping count will notice that that adds up to 10 musicians—the new release marks the first time that TTB has recorded since the departure of its original bassist, Oteil Burbridge. Rather than replace him immediately, the group has utilized the services of several bass players on the album (Pino Palladino, Bakithi Kumalo, George Reiff and Dave Monsey), and has been rotating bassists at their gigs as well.
Most of the tracks on Made Up Mind were penned by Tedeschi and Trucks with various co-writers—including Doyle Bramhall II, Eric Krasno, Gary Louris and John Leventhal, all of whom also contributed to TTB’s debut Revelator. The maiden single from the album, “Part of Me,” a vocal duet between Susan and trombonist Sermons, stands out as a particular highlight, reminiscent of the classic R&B emanating from the Memphis and Muscle Shoals soul scenes of the ’60s and ’70s. The title track “Made Up Mind”, authored by Tedeschi, Trucks and Oliver Wood, is a balls-out soul-rocker in the tradition of early Bonnie Raitt and Delaney & Bonnie. This one, says Susan, “is an empowerment song: I know you want to see me, you want to do this, but I’m on my own and I’ve branched out now. It could be anything from a child growing up and getting out to a woman moving on, or the kind of thing where this person has made a change. It’s sort of a rebirth.”
Or, as Derek adds, it could be about the current state of TTB: “It makes a statement that this band knows what it wants to do and is here to stay. Take it or leave it, this is what it is,” he says.
With their increasingly articulate and affecting songcraft, unparalleled musicianship and an honest, gutsy sound that incorporates multiple stylistic influences and can only result from hard work and openness to ideas, it’s a given that many more will make up their minds to take Made Up Mind than to leave it.
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1 Made Up Mind
2 Do I Look Worried
3 Idle Wind
5 Part of Me
6 Whiskey Legs
7 It’s So Heavy
8 All That I Need
9 Sweet And Low
10 The Storm
11 Calling Out To You