By: Bill Clifford
Back To The River (Verve Forecast) marks a creative high point in Susan Tedeschi's career. It's the first CD of new music she's released since 2002, and Tedeschi wrote or co-wrote all but one of the eleven songs, the most songs she's had a hand in writing on any of her releases.
The driving rocker "Talking About" opens the disc, with aggressive electric guitar turned in by guest Doyle Bramhall II, matched in intensity by Tedeschi's growling vocals. She belts out an emotional salvo on the chorus, sounding like a fired up Bonnie Raitt. In contrast, "700 Houses" is a mournful, elegant lament over the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina. Tedeschi's husband, Derek Trucks, colors the dirge with soulful, weeping guitar, and it further features a rich R&B horn arrangement. The swampy funk of the title track finds the mother of two pining for the comforts of home on the St. John's River in Jacksonville, Fl.
The Boston native took another Massachusetts's songwriter, Sonya Kitchell, under her wing, and together they wrote the socially conscious "People." Again featuring the joyful slide guitar of Trucks, this anthem rings with an Allman-esque feel. The lone cover, a fiery and rhythmic run through Allan Toussaint's "Break In The Road," features a multi-horned arrangement that is pure Memphis soul. Tedeschi then harkens back to her blues roots on the scorching weeper "Can't Sleep At Night," an aching ballad that laments a love gone bad.
Expanding upon her roots as a traditional blues artist, Back To The River is a well-rounded CD that showcases Tedeschi's talent as a songwriter, guitarist and vocalist.
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