Allman by Any Other Name: Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks
The post-millennial Allman Brothers Band has given birth to numerous side projectsoften multiple side projectsfor almost all of the current members. Both guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks have have led multiple bands outside of the Allman Brothers and both have live recordings of these side projects released within months of one another.
Warren Haynes Band
Live at the Moody Theater
Guitarist Warren Haynes is best known as a member of the Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule and the Warren Haynes Band. Following his well-received recording with the latter format, Man in Motion (Stax, 2011), Haynes returns with Live at the Moody Theater, reprising the better part of Man in Motion, plus some ABB, Gov't Mule and cover material. The music is top notch and exactly what you would expect and hope for. If it weren't for Warren Haynes and like-minded musicians, there would be no "rock" music.
While unfair to call predictable, we have learned what to expect from a Warren Haynes-related concert. The blues and classic rock will be in abundance in addition to what is currently promoted. Haynes has become renown for his covers of 1970s-era music and he does not disappoint here with searing readings of Steely Dan's "Pretzel Logic" and Jimi Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic" and a further throwback to Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." It was once said that pianist Gene Harris always remade the same album over and over...and that is okay. The same goes for Warren Haynes and his use of covers and other format material. Only, Haynes and company never cease to surprise.
It is on the new material that the band most shines. Haynes adopted a more soul-R&B approach on Man in Motion, one that he exercises fully here. This music is less-jam band oriented than his Gov't Mule material. Haynes influences are expansive and he has assimilated them in such a way that they are hard to deconstruct from the finished product. "River's Gonna Rise" sounds like Curtis Mayfield and Carlos Santana meeting Isaac Hayes for drinks, and that is only a poor approximation. While "Sick of my Shadow" and "On a Real Lonely Night" might recall mid-1970s Dr. John and the Tower of Power, a passing glance at "Hattisburg Shuffle" could be Haynes Mississippi answer to Neil Young's "Alabama."
Influences and similarities aside, Warren Haynes is right now the keeper of a flame burning loud (yes, "burning loud") with rock and roll. His format is expanded with background singers (something he has adopted with Gov't Mule) and horns, in this case tenor saxophone player Ron Holloway who plays the same part here that Lenny Pickett played on Little Feat's Waiting For Columbus (Warner Brothers, 1978), that is as foil to Haynes' dense guitar sound. Haynes closes the show with his excellent "Soulshine" first featured on the Allman Brothers Band's Where It All Began (Sony Music, 1994). It is fitting that Haynes performs this song in all of his varied formats. It perfectly captures the spirit of his creativity.
Live: Everybody's Talkin'
Like Warren Haynes, the Tedeschi-Trucks band also had a critically- lauded recent release in the superb Revelator (Sony Masterworks, 2011) which has been followed by a live recording Live: Everybody's Talkin'. The comparison splits from there: where Haynes plays it safe, the Tedeschi-Trucks band steps out on a limb with a majority of new material, beginning with a gospel treatment of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" which was a huge hit for Harry Nilsson after being featured in the movie Midnight Cowboy (United Artists, 1969). The transformation Tedeschi-Trucks effects in this easy country ballad is nothing short of astonishing.
Likewise is the fate of the remaining material, all given a thorough workout, the shortest song being four minutes (blues standard "Rollin' and Tumblin'") and the longest, a 15-minute soul march (The Supremes' cover of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight"). It is fun and gratifying to hear this band step out of the box, producing music for music's sake. The band doesn't leave the mothership too far behind with a teasing quote of "Little Martha" introducing the soul ballad "Midnight in Harlem." The music is more widely varied here than on the Haynes set. Molten modern blues ("Learn to How to Love" Bobby Blue Bland's "That Did It") exists side-by-side with the Lovin' Spoonful's "Darlin' Be Home Soon" and the TT band's own "Bound for Glory."
It is on these blues songs that the most traction is gained and rubber burned. "Derek Truck"'s perfectly dramatic solos on "That Did it," "Learn How to Love" and "Bound for Glory" are the musical equivalent of Sherman's march to the sea. Trucks long ago proved his technical superiority to his idol Duane Allman and with each recording approaches that guitarist's spiritual apex. When it is time for Trucks to play softly, he does. When it is time for him to light the flamethrower, he goes into overdrive, laying waste to all in his way. the climaxes of his solos are incendiary.
The formation of the Tedeschi-Trucks band out of members of the Derek Trucks Band and the ABB has been both a logical and fortuitous evolution. Susan Tedeschi's presence has focused the myriad influences driving Trucks into a mercury-smooth creative homogeneity that makes perfect sense no matter what style of music the group plays. Tedeschi is no slouch on guitar either, tearing it up on "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and providing backup for Trucks. The expansion of the original Derek Truck band to the eleven-member Tedeschi-Trucks Band recalls the seismic transition of the Butterfield Blues Band from East-West (Elektra, 1966) to The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (Elektra, 1967) and beyond.
The Tedeschi-Trucks band is a real band and not some auto- tuned confection of the moment, clotting what we call the radio anymore. Judging from the first two recordings, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band will be most fun to watch in the future.
Tracks and Personnel
Live at the Moody Theater
Tracks: CD1: Man In Motion; River's Gonna Rise; Sick Of My Shadow; Friend To You; On A Real Lonely Night; Invisible; Take A Bullet; Hattiesburg Hustle; Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday. CD2: Frozen Fear; Dreaming The Same Dream; Pretzel Logic; Fire In The Kitchen; Change Is Gonna Come; Spanish Castle Magic; WHB Intro; Tear Me Down; Your Wildest Dreams; Soulshine.
Personnel: Warren Haynes: Guitar and vocals; Terence Higgins: Drums; Ron Johnson: Bass; Nigel Hall: Keyboards and vocals; Ron Holloway: Tenor sax; Ruthie Foster: Vocals; Alfreda Gerald: Vocals; Alecia Chakour: Vocals.
Live: Everybody's Talkin'
Tracks: CD1: Everybody's Talkin'; Midnight In Harlem; Learn How To Love; Bound For Glory; Rollin' And Tumblin'; Nobody's Free; Darling Be Home Soon. CD2: That Did It; Uptight; Love Has Something Else To Say; Wade In The Water.
Personnel: Derek Trucks: guitar; Susan Tedeschi: guitar, vocals; Oteil Burbridge: bass guitar; Kofi Burbridge: keyboards, flute, Tyler Greenwell: drums, percussion; JJ Johnson: drums, percussion; Mike Mattison: vocals; Mark Rivers: vocals; Kebbi Williams: saxophone; Maurice Brown: trumpet; Saunders Sermons: trombone.