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Tedeschi's latest is all
over the place

Susan Tedeschi - Back to the River
(Verve Forecast)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 18, 2009
Susan Tedeschi

Review by John Halverson

Her voice can screech or purr. She can channel Janis or Bonnie Raitt. But Susan Tedeschi is at her best when she brings her biker chick voice to something otherwise melodic and accessible.

In her latest CD, Back to the River, she did some screeching-the opening cut, "Talking About," for instance. She brought a lighter, slightly Gaelic touch to the intriguing "700 Houses." But she was best when she wound all her talents into "People" or "Revolutionize Your Soul." "Revolutionize," especially, caught the essence of what Tedeschi does best. It's got a classic soul music flight path-big horns, girl group backup singers, a pleading intro followed by a rousing crescendo. That pattern allows her to show the purr in her voice which gives her gutsy biker chick roughness even more power. It's like Tina Turner once intoned "we're going to…do it easy...then we're going to finish rough." That's the perfect mantra for Tedeschi. I just wish she'd explore it more often.

Frankly, the variety of music on River challenges the ear drums. Once you've settled into a song, she'll shake you up with the next. With some musicians that's variety; with Tedeschi it seems dissonant-and a bit like she not committed to any one style. Which has always been my rub with her. Who is she?
But, alas, I still love her. She has an extraordinary voice, more modulated than Raitts', more varied than Janis'. Tedeschi can handle southern rock and blues and R&B. She's written some good, nicely-hooked songs, too.

What there's not enough of on this CD is her guitar. Since starting to tour with her husband, legendary slide guitarist Derek Trucks, she seems to have given herself second chair to the former Allman Brothers prodigy. For my money, Tedeschi's guitar is her best instrument-wonderfully raunchy and more unpredictable than most of her guitar-playing contemporaries.

When it comes to her guitar, Tedeschi has found her voice. If her song collection and singing voice found a similar trademark groove, she'd be a legend.
I love her, but I love her potential even more.

Related articles:

Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival (Susan Tedeschi) - Concert review - Bridgeview, IL - July 2007
Susan Tedeschi - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - July 2006
Susan Tedeschi - Hope and Desire - Album review

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