The Tedeschi Trucks Band is different from other bands, and it's not because the group is led by the husband-and-wife team of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. It's how the band — and the crew — relate with one another.
"The band and crew are equal," explains Tedeschi. "There's not a separate crew bus and band bus. We're all mixed up, and we all think of each other as family."
That familial vibe can be traced back to the Allman Brothers. Even when he was in his early teens, Trucks' slide guitar playing was drawing comparisons to the late Duane Allman, whose lead-playing role he now fills with the Allman Brothers Band.
In 2001, Trucks married Tedeschi, an acclaimed blues guitarist and singer. They've maintained their own bands ever since, frequently hosting shows together, but keeping separate careers. This year marks their first effort to assemble a unified band, and they're bound to prosper. In addition to their own talents, they've pulled from among the greatest names in Southern soul and Allman family lore to form their 11-piece ensemble.
"It's not just Derek that is super badass, even though he is super badass," exclaims Tedeschi. "Oteil is amazing. Kofi is a musical genius. Mike Mattison. Go down the line, and any of them — wow. Everybody is super great."
Tedeschi refers to Oteil Burbridge, the Allman Brothers' bassist, and his multitalented brother, Kofi, who plays keyboard and flute. Mattison provides the smooth, raspy vocals for the Derek Trucks Band and harmonizes with Mark Rivers in the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Rounding it out are a pair of drummers and a three-piece horn section.
"It's such a heartfelt band," says Tedeschi. "To be able to listen to each other and grow as a band, it's very unique nowadays. It seems like many people aren't nearly as personal when it comes to music. Sometimes I get goosebumps. Sometimes I start crying. I've been trying to keep from crying, but I definitely get emotional."
Much like Duane Allman's work, Trucks' slide playing is awe-inspiring enough to provoke tears. But surrounded by friends like Burbridge, among the best in the world on their instruments, it's a recipe for swampy, soulful magic. The band just finished work on their debut album, Revelator, and released its first single, "Bound for Glory," as a free download at their website. Recorded at the couples' home studio (named Swamp Raga) in Jacksonville, Fla., the homey atmosphere inspired a big family vibe during the sessions, tightening up the ensemble to unprecedented levels.
"With Soul Stew (one of Derek and Susan's previous collaborations), we never really practiced," says Tedeschi. "With this band, we're not only practicing, we're writing and recording. The material was all written for this group. We were in the studio for two months."
Tedeschi talked with City Paper last week, the day before the band arrived in Jacksonville for rehearsals. Charleston is the first stop on a tour that takes them as far as New Zealand in the coming months.
It's apt to be a memorable year for the family. In 2009, Tedeschi and Trucks were both nominated, separately, for the Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy. Tedeschi's Back to the River was beat out by her husband, who won for Already Free. If Revelator is met with similar accolades, they'll have a golden statue on the shelf they can share.