Susan Tedeschi: Back to the River (Universal)

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Susan Tedeschi: Back to the River
Susan Tedeschi: Back to the River (Universal)

This raw and soaring blues-rock singer and guitarist has been mentioned in Elsewhere dispatches recently, but only as the wife of slide guitarist Derek Trucks.

Very much her own person however, she opens this album with a full throated attack of the kind that has rarely been in rock music since the late Janis Joplin. In an age of coy and infantile women singers who come on like coquettish teenagers, Tedeschi lets you know immediately that she is A Grown Woman.

Certainly she gets help from Derek and various members of their collective band, but all bar one song here (a cover of Allen Toussaint's There's A Break in the Road) are originals or co-writes by Tedeschi -- and with some impressive company: Jayhawk Gary Louris, Tony Joe White on the funky, Stevie Wonder/Hendrix-styled title track and John Leventhal among them. 

If you judge someone by the company they keep . . .

The waterlogged spirit of New Orleans post-Katrina is here in the slow 700 Houses, elsewhere things slew neatly through Southern blues Allman Brothers style (makes sense given Trucks plays in that band), nods to the earthy sound of Etta James, early Tina Turner and the like -- and of course that wandering spirit of Janis Joplin.

My guess after interviewing Trucks was that there was a keen intelligence and conscience in that man's soul and Tedeschi's People ("TV screens and corrupt magazines, a man on the radio who thinks he knows what you need") and Revolutionize Your Soul here suggests some similarly deep sense of social responsibility.

If a few of the songs don't have a more clear form and indulge in a bit of guitarism, and it peters out towards the end, that takes nothing away from the core of a fine and challenging album, and a voice that can drive in lead-head nails from the far corner of a stadium I am guessing.

I think we need to see her -- and her husband -- live. 



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