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All in the Family

The husband and wife group, Tedeschi Trucks Band, boils down a vast array of influences, making them their own while catering to an incredibly dedicated fanbase hanging on each night's unique setlist.

G.K. Hizer
October 28, 2019

Since officially forming in 2010, Tedeschi Trucks Band has garnered a loyal, if not passionate, following. Steeped in a mixture of Southern rock, soul, blues, and gospel, the band crosses genres and defies categorization, most often classified in the catch-all “Americana” label.

Led by the husband and wife combo of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, the group is known for its eclectic, jam-oriented performances, and has become one of the best and most well-respected live bands across genres.

If expectations run high with this group, it’s because of its impressive pedigree.

Tedeschi set blues fans’ ears ablaze with her 1998 sophomore release, Just Won’t Burn, and became a strong headliner in her own right after opening for John Mellencamp, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. Her voice has been described as a blend of Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, both of whom she claims as influences. Her guitar playing is influenced by Buddy Guy, Johnny Watson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, and Doyle Bramhall II.

Trucks picked up the guitar when he was 9 years old, and morphed into a child prodigy, appearing alongside Guy and touring with Thunderhawk by the time he was 13. As the nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, Derek guested with the band on regular occasions and became a formal member of the band in 1999, continuing with the Allman Brothers through the group’s final performance in 2014.

Trucks has appeared twice in Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He was listed as 81st in 2003 and 16th in 2011. A 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal described him as “the most awe-inspiring electric slide guitar player performing today.” In 2007, Trucks appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone for an article called the “New Guitar Gods.”

Even so, Tedeschi and Trucks experimented with their chemistry, testing the waters by touring their respective bands together and combining members for Soul Stew Revival, before committing to the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010.

“You have to remember, we waited for nine, almost 10 years before we were ready to be in a band together,” says Trucks. “We toured together a couple of times before that to make sure it could work. Sure, there are times that there is husband and wife stuff, but we don’t take that onstage. It helps that there’s a considerable amount of shared respect and shared intentions. It’s easier when you’re trying to achieve the same things.

“The stage and what happens live is important to both of us; everything else falls away when we’re playing. I can honestly say the band has made us closer, which I wasn’t sure would happen. I guess I got fortunate. You have to find the right person with the right disposition to be able to be around each other that much.”

Beyond its namesakes, TTB is stacked with talent, boasting a 12-member lineup that includes keyboards, horns, and background vocalists, expanding the group’s sound beyond a mere Southern rock or blues outfit. While that influences the writing process, it also casts a wide net for the band’s eclectic and exhilarating live shows. Setlists shift from night to night, leading fans to follow the group around the country and to specific locations in a quest to catch the band’s most magical moments.

“We just finished six nights at the Beacon Theatre [New York],” Trucks says. “We played 86 or 87 songs over that stretch and close to 60 of those were originals, with scattered covers, and even then, most of that has some direct lineage for us. If we play from something by Derek and the Dominos or dig into Mad Dogs & Englishmen, it’s from us playing with Eric Clapton or Leon Russell. And then there are some blues covers that I think are American songbook, if you will, and part of our collective consciousness of what we grew up with. As a band, we’re probably not going to write a straight blues song, but they’re a lot of fun to play.”

The band’s latest album, Signs, addresses a variety of emotions, including loss, grief, and hope. The album was written over a rough period when the band lost several people close to it, including Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Leon Russell, B.B. King, and Bruce Hampton. Longtime keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge passed away on the album’s release day as well.

April 2020 Cover