Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi
Jimmie Vaughan, Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites. By
now it's common knowledge guitarist Jimmie Vaughan plays second to no
one. His guitar has a voice of its own, and whether he's keeping it low
down and dirty or letting it strut its stuff uptown, the Fender
Stratocaster is a one-of-a-kind treasure. Even better, Vaughan's vocals
now cast their own spell, something that just did not happen when he was
steering the ship with his previous band the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Today, though, the Texan is a singing fool.
The follow-up release to, what else, last year's Plays Blues,
Ballads & Favorites
takes things a step or two further, swinging
from Gene Autry songs to a Jivin' Gene chestnut. Vaughan has always been
of the mind that music is a steaming gumbo, and to try and label what's
what is not only a waste of precious time but an idiot's game to begin
with. Vaughan says it best with his right-on song selection: find what
you love to play and then play it flat-out.
His band is a wonder of spirit, with ace drummer George Rains' snare keeping everyone jumping. Also
onboard is another Austin legend, singer Lou Ann Barton, showing up in
high heat on several songs including the rousing "No Use Knocking."
Saving quite possibly the best for last is a fevered version of Big
Sambo's "The Rains Came," restored to beautiful ballad form after being
jacked to the max by the Sir Douglas Quintet's hit cover in 1966. There
aren't enough combos like this running around the country, so
count ourselves lucky Jimmie Vaughan is still going full-tilt and
twirling the night away.
, The Help Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
in '60s Mississippi, The Help shows the way movie soundtracks often rise
to the occasion. This inspired collection also perfectly illustrates
how the times were a-changin' back then, and music was so much the
better for it. Radio playlists during that era were free-range zones of
discovery, with very little stylistic parameters to get in the way of
groovacious listening get-downs.
Consider the artists rounded up here to bring home the force of
what was happening all across the country's airwaves: Johnny Cash,
Frankie Valli, Webb Pierce, the Orlons, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Bo
Diddley, Chubby Checker, Mavis Staples, Lloyd Price and gospel great
Dorothy Norwood. And, of course, no self-respecting modern soundtrack
would miss out on the opportunity to have a hit with a new song, so Mary
J. Blige offers up a knockout called "The Living Proof."
All this music
goes by way of helping tell the story of African-American domestic
workers who set the tone for what was going on raising children for
white families in the Deep South. The moviemakers got it right too: the
music is what turned up the social tempo and got everyone bopping with
each other. If you can't get your backfield in motion to "The Wah
Watusi," then something is seriously wrong with your lower region.
Whoever was turned loose to choose songs for The Help should be
given a small medal, because all areas are covered and there isn't a
whiff of marketing trickery among the bunch. Any soundtrack that has
Webb Pierce and Bo Diddley bumped up next to each other is doing
something mighty right, and by bringing the music together is leading
the way to a greater day, even if it is 2011. It's never too late.
Tedeschi Trucks Band, Revelator. Talk about the first couple of
rootsy blues-rock: Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks form a perfect union,
all sweet-tinged sassy vocals and snakey slide guitar. In many ways
this is a marriage made in musical heaven, and their first album
together is a bold step to the front of the class. What makes it so
impressive is the depth of expression, and the way their voices and
guitars answer each other so effortlessly.
This is no small aggregation either. The eleven players come from
various backgrounds, but each have the essence of nights spent on
roadhouse bandstands learning the lessons of how to land a sonic punch.
Add up all that experience and the sound is pretty devastating - but
never overstated. That's the glory of what happens when a group starts
really hitting the note; there are no histrionics or wasted efforts.
Instead, things gel quick and only get better.
Susan Tedeschi has been one of the music's great new hopes for
awhile now, while Derek Trucks is simply the most expressive guitarist
of his generation. Listen to his solos on "Midnight in Harlem" to hear
everything the slide guitar can do, and even where it is going. That he
comes out of the Allman Brothers Band gene pool and is named after Derek
of Dominos' fame is no accident. This young man is a monster on his
instrument, and the blue sky is the limit. Go there with him now.
Aretha Franklin, Take A Look: Complete on Columbia. Box sets like
this make a digital-only landscape seem like some sort of post-nuclear
wasteland where the world has been stripped of all color and the wonder
of life reduced to bytes and pieces. For the Queen of Soul's 1960-1965
work, featured on 12 compact discs, Columbia Records has opened the
curatorial floodgates and gone crazy.
Each album is featured in its
original artwork, and if that's not enough, there are bonus tracks, mono
mixes, alternate takes, studio conversations and a DVD of rare
televised performances from the Steve Allen Show. Obviously this isn't a
Crackerjacks box with a prize in the bottom. Rather, this is the mother
lode look at Aretha Franklin's first act, before she moved to Atlantic
Records and set upon her scored-earth assault on listeners' hearts.
What is so surprising about Franklin's early work is how strong it
really is. Her very first album, released in 1961 and recorded with the
Ray Bryant Combo, is so seductively swinging it's almost criminal it was
largely overlooked. All the amazing talent later captured on gems like
"I Never Loved a Man," "Think," and "Ain't No Way," to name only a few,
is in full flower here.
On "Maybe I'm a Fool" and "Won't Be Long,"
recorded when the singer was still a teenager, it's a revelation to hear
the heights she hits and blues she already understands. This is clearly
no mere mortal, but someone who sees life all the way through and can
turn those feelings into words that take us with her to the end of the
Celebrating the singer's golden recording anniversary,
Take A Look is required listening for anyone who wants to hear how one
of the music's all-time greatest singers got her start, and worked her
way through different styles and settings to make a place for herself in
history. Taking that ride with her is a rare chance to see how it's
done - and then some.