Tea Leaf Green: Rock 'n' Roll Band

By Dennis Cook

Fundamentals. It's the lesson coaches beat into their players' heads. It's the mantra of the piano teacher and the kung-fu sensei. Learn the essentials, and the rest will unfold properly. Build a sloppy foundation, and anything built on it will tumble in time. Tea Leaf Green lives this principle in a quietly righteous way. They fully comprehend the power and beauty of good songs played with clear-eyed conviction, technical proficiency, and just a lil' swagger. In the past couple years, they've whittled and polished the true spirit inside their music. Like vintage Little Feat, Guess Who, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, their conviction and smiling passion shines through every album cut, every concert. There's a nourishing meat-and-taters quality to everything they do. And these qualities are on full display in their new live CD/DVD set, Rock 'n' Roll Band.

This is music to be experienced arm-in-arm, smiling, glasses raised. Where so much rock today seems pried from tormented bedrooms and angry journals, Tea Leaf proffers soulful sing-a-longs full of non-preachy worldly wisdom. This last part creeps up, but there's more than cheery ditties here. Rock 'n' Roll Band peels away a few musical layers, offering open-hearted snapshots of the boys at home between chunks of a very good night at The Fox Theater in Boulder, Colorado. The juxtaposition of their thoughts on what they do with a fine example of them in the throes of live ecstasy proves enlightened bohemians can also play hard. While often tagged a "jam band," this set places them more in the exploratory rock field, far closer to say Deep Purple or Peter Frampton than Phish.

A spirited reading of "Morning Sun" on the DVD nicely sums up their overall vibe:

There's a storm on the dance floor,
There's a cloud in this club.
Lightning's a warning
For the thunder struck.
You know how to shake it,
You really know how to move.
We're gonna make it,
With nothing to prove.

No props, no gimmicks, just four guys blossoming as showmen and songwriters. Director Justin Kreutzmann lingers over the band in a way that's far more revealing than today's penchant for ferret-on-espresso jump-cuts and shallow sound bites. He mixes up wide shots and close-ups so the scope of their playing dances with an intimacy the folks in the stalls rarely encounter. The live footage wisely gets the lion's share of screen time. The intercut off-stage moments pop in appropriately, expanding on the moment at hand. So often this sort of thing feels intrusive but not so here. Kreutzmann leaves few directorial fingerprints, choosing instead to showcase the band in as direct and pure a way as the camera allows. It's a rare thing to truly serve one's subject and something that makes him a director to watch in the future.

Listening to the CD, one is struck by the paring back of their solos. This leaner approach serves the songs more, which in turn increases the overall density of things. Guitarist Josh Clark manages to be eloquent without the need to showboat. Singer-keyboardist Trevor Garrod continues to master texture over multi-note flurries. And it's fun to hear him work in more harmonica these days. The fundamentals we spoke of at the start are seen most clearly in the rhythm team of bassist Ben Chambers and drummer Scott Rager. While always present, they rarely solo, and when they do, it packs a wallop. This pair is the sturdy heartbeat that fuels this agile body. That they perform this role with such humility and skill is impressive.

This set is Tea Leaf's new calling card, the proper showcase for the story so far. Taken together, the music on both the CD and DVD (track listings vary slightly) have a breezily universal appeal. Their music is the sort that ignites crowds, a cleansing fire that clears away the overgrowth of day-to-day life. It's not the emotional thunderstorm of say The Mars Volta but something subtler, closer to their '60s and '70s forebears. It's good-time music built from the ashes of hard times. This is the reason for TLG's growing popularity. They create music that speaks to life lived on the ground. It's the stuff that makes folks "turn it up" when Ronnie Van Zant tells 'em to. It's why rock 'n' roll truly never forgets Bob Seger. We need anthems to help us through all the time-clock punching and rough, gray days. When Garrod sings, "I was once a flower and I'll be a flower again," it's a glimpse of the world our eyes are often too clouded by debts and drama to really see. Rock 'n' Roll Band is chock full of such moments.

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[Published on: 11/1/06]

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BJW240 starstarstarstar Mon 11/6/2006 04:48PM
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I bought this cd the day it came out - I saw these guys at the Stone Church in Newmarket NH last year and it was a killer show - always glad to see the live energy translated to cd. Keep up the good work, TLG!

T. Ralph starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/7/2006 09:00AM
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Great sound quality, awesome song selection from a great show, and, most importantly, incredible band! The DVD would be a great introduction to those who don't know about TLG!

dwebb1 starstarstarstar Tue 11/7/2006 09:23AM
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I bought the cd the day that it came out as well. The sound quality is outstanding and the playing is great as well. The solos on this cd are definitely paired back a bit, which will be good for introducing new fans to their music, but is not really typical when it comes to a TLG live show. I have seen them several times, and they normally tend to do more exploratory jamming than is included on this set. I am not slamming the cd in any way, it is great, but if you listen to this and thought they would be more jammy, they normally are. If you want to hear more of their jammy side, check out one of the SBD recordings out on archive.org. I promise they won't disappoint your jammy cravings. They are, to me, the next evolution of the jam scene. They are like Phish in that they have unbelievable tension and release jams, but lyrically, they are more accessible, and they tend to keep their jams more focused, with less meandering, but that's just my opinion. Definitely catch them live. They will melt your face!

rpmills starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/7/2006 03:05PM
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Nice review Cook, I always appreciate your take on albums whether I agree with it or not.

TLG are great guys who work tremendously hard. I believe some of Trevor's songs are timeless and have the potential to be taken in a variety of different ways. Good to see they are getting some props even if its very little. It is well deserved.

BeHice starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/7/2006 04:03PM
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Both the CD and DVD are a great representation of TLG. They a very fun and bright group with a lot potential still yet to be realized.

Some clips of the DVD and CD here:

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/10/2006 09:26AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Just saw them in an intimate setting last weekend..
THEY WERE SMOKIN!!! Off the HOOK Jams, music will Balls..
no herky jerky spazz jazz, lyrics with meaning and soul, and a tiny shot of funk.. The new up and coming rock band of the future.. I highly suggest all PANIC fans go see TLG, u will not be dis-appointed.. The new album rock and roll band is really killer too!!! TLG is an amazing band, I highly suggest them for rock purists.. peace ya'll

mgoedman starstarstarstarstar Sat 11/11/2006 10:34PM
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awesome...great introduction to the band for newcomers with enough inter-personal moments to please more veteran listerners. Absolutely great! A must have IMO

NickSoda starstarstarstarstar Sun 11/12/2006 01:12PM
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Tea Leaf Green is where its at! These guys are so underrated its sick! I've been to my share of TLG shows and they have rocked them all, most recently last month in MADISON! Anyways - nice article, KEEP ROCKING TEA LEAF!

kfreelin starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/14/2006 06:20PM
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Just saw tea leaf green in Atlanta...even though new monsoon couldn't make it...teal leaf rocked the house! And to Sonya Lee...keep it up! Come up to Asheville and jam it out!!!

Sensi1 star Wed 11/15/2006 09:33AM
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overrated... I have seen TLG 5 time and I must say their look at my pretty hair, hear my pretty voice, shows are more image then substance. Nice cover for the album... they could have called it "Let It Be" and people would still think that this band is original. The only good thing about this band is they have a great guitar player. The only time a TLG cd would be in my cd player is when I need help putting my kids to sleep. I really don't know why people go see this band.

Chapelchilla starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/16/2006 02:52PM
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Sensi needs to lay off that funky stuff. These guys are really good and getting better each tour. While they are not yet at the Phish/Dead level, I would not be surprised to see them get there in a few years. The have "It", that certain something that seperates a decent band from a great one. They just need more seasoning...

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Fri 11/17/2006 09:36AM
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funny Sensi.. I didnt get the impression that they were a band concerned with looks, or appearances, they didnt even have any lights for god sakes.. Maybe if you were totally blind, you may hear their music for how good it really is.
peace ya'll PS>Yes Chapelchilla, they have "it"

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Fri 11/17/2006 09:36AM
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oh yeah they were not scared to pass around the whiskey either, and still managed to play kick ass.. peace ya'll

Sensi1 star Fri 11/17/2006 10:25AM
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Yeah. "it" simple songs for simple minds. You know half the idiots on the radio have "it" too, I look at TLG getting MTV big way before they are Phish/dead big. Here is a nice change to one of their trendy songs, "gone, gone, gone, I wish this band was gone, because the suck real bad, but still they're playing strong."
If this band wasn't in every Relix and on this home page everyday no one would buy their "sing me a pretty song look at me play bad harmonica" garbage.
I'll say it again OVERRATED!
All of you can go waste your money on this band if you want but I will not give this band one penny more then I already have.

Sensi1 star Fri 11/17/2006 10:43AM
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Yeah man did you see the way they passed the whiskey, aw man that was sweet the way they drink whiskey and play. yeah.
image not substance.

jackiesoup Fri 11/17/2006 10:42PM
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From what I have heard on jam_on sirius radio from these guys so far is not my thing.
I like the keys guys voice and 1 or 2 songs alot but the jamming and originality does not drag me to a record store. A little too 'try to BLOW you away' approach -for me. They may get good with time though...which is why we should try and not be sooo critical of fresh talents who should be given time to develop.
we're not going to get the next Grateful Dead/Phish/Beatles/wHaTeVEr band overnight. This is not a "best band of all time" contest.
Some comments I see on this site are so unecessarily critical.
Imagine The Grateful Dead in 1968(assume the internet existed) with some of you jambase 'comment boys' calling Jerry G.& the boys- non-musical drug rockers.
Let's try and be a little more posi+ive people.
Bands need time to develop.
Judging bands as if they've already played their best show and swan song is really starting to get boring.
(check out ron sexsmith..real nice songwriting)

tate79 Sat 11/18/2006 10:37AM
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what the fuck jackie soup you just said tea leaf green isnt that good and then you say to check out ron sexsmith who is the biggest fucking musical flop that i have ever had the misfortion of seeing in concert. I can't believe that you can belittle a very musically talented band and then say check out this shitty band. There is nothing good about ron sexsmith as a musician and to think that people pay to see him when there are so many great struggling musicians is sickining.

Sensi1 star Sat 11/18/2006 11:50AM
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one, Ron Sexsmith SUCKS
two, TLG has been around for years they are just now getting face time and thats why you think they'er fresh. Like most people I'm sure you only go see a band when someone (website or relix) tells you.
three, our music scene was built on critical ears. We didn't like the garbage clearchannel was feeding us so we searched for something better. In a good way, hate has help us make our bands better, that is why our scene is so saturated with good music.

even if the occasional shitty band like TLG slips though the cracks. I still think this scene has the best music you can find in the world.

festijam12 starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/21/2006 11:00AM
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Just out of curiosity...what do you listen to sensi?

I do agree that there is harsh criticism on this board, but that is part of life. Do yoyu think Phish/Dead/SCI made it to the top by hearing nothing but positive feedback? Having your own opinion is what makes you unique. There is no need to take shots at people (not bands) that share the same community and obviously care enought to post what they think, which last I checked is one your rights. In fact, I enjoy hearing peoples differing views, I cant imagine why an open minded person would not. Moving forward, my personal take on TLG matches most of this board. These guys do have "it". I have never been so impressed the first time I have seen a band, Abbey Pub in Chicago. It was absolutely amazing. The feeling I had after the show was undescribable. And to say that TLG does not have talent kind of baffles me. Any band that Tre picks to open for him on tour is doing something right, even if it is not your particular style. If you like in your face rock 'n roll with clever lyrics, please check these guys out, they deserve it. Also, as a Panic fan, i do agree with the statement that Panic fans would take a liking to TLG.

Im out.

justin r starstarstarstarstar Wed 11/22/2006 09:08AM
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justin r

yea i will keep "wasting" my money on tlg cause $5 for 2 and half hours of rockin is really steep, tlg is one of the best bands out there right now, great article

Sensi1 Wed 11/22/2006 01:46PM
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I apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings. I just really think this band is bad-unoriginal and overrated. This "it" that you are talking about-Backstreet boys had "it" N'Sync had "it" "It" is not what I look for in music. I look for groundbreaking, cutting edge, original, blow my mind music. And for you festi, I find this music in bands like Frank Zappa, Umphrey's McGee and Phish not TLG. The same lyrics you think are clever, I think are cheesy and gay. I feel like there are a million bands playing a million songs that sound exactly like what TLG is doing. And there are hundreds of other bands out there that deserve the exposure that TLG are getting. I wish I knew their PR guys-damn. Once again, there are people who like all different kinds of music and I'm sure TLG will find their share of people that appreciate their "itness"

jackiesoup Thu 11/23/2006 07:14AM
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Hey Sensi.
By the way I love the music of Zappa, Dylan, The Dead, Phish, UM(love 'em right now), The Slip, Sloan, Chili Peppers, and many, many more acts including Ron Sexsmith.
Just not too fond of 'tlg'.....yet

(I hope you don't mind)

sideshownyc Fri 11/24/2006 10:27PM
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check out their 2005 Bonnaroo set...best quality release so far.

aomi333 Sun 11/26/2006 09:07PM
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Tea Leaf Green is too technically perfect. They need too loosen up. Too practiced and contrived. A waste of time and sorry excuse for the vacuum left by Phish. Everyone knows it, no one wants to admit it.

Borealis Fir starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/27/2006 12:03PM
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anyone know if this Fox Theatre show from Boulder is that and the same as the Fox Theatre show they played just about a month ago on Halloween in Boulder, which is excellent....tea leaf brings intensity and jamm'm to the frontdoor, if curious let them in and they won't let ya down.

Teabagger starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/28/2006 09:35AM
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Sensi1 is right. They don't sound like nsync or backstreet boys. They also can't dance as well. But they can play rock n roll, write great lyrics, and put on an infectious live show. This CD is a good representation of that, although they kept the jamming a little more concise for this release than they would at any given show. The only thing missing from their shows is a 35 minute exploration jam that allows for a bathroom/bar break without missing anything important. If only they would stop playing rock music and noodle more!! ;)

Littleo starstarstarstar Wed 11/29/2006 08:53AM
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When I hear a hear a band that I really like, I listen to their music and enjoy myself at their shows. I support them in this way and we both benefit. If I don't like a band, I don't buy their records or go to their shows but I also don't go around slamming them. If you like it, check it out, if you don't, don't. It doesn't matter how big a band is or who else listens to them. To me this band has a nice stage presence, good musicians and songs that I enjoy. Thanks TLG

quhp Wed 11/29/2006 09:20AM
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as a reader like yourselves--I really find the criticism enjoyable to read. Please, keep the opinions coming on every single subject matter on jambase! Thanks

mreezal Wed 11/29/2006 11:38PM
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festijam12, u are right. that Abbey show was great, first time ever seein them and i left totally stunned. i saw them like 3 more times after that and was never able to have the same connection. kinda got bored, but got to chill with them after the show at the Canopy Club and i dont wanna hate on these guys, cuz they are all straight dudes. ben rolls a straight blunt too

jjwood starstar Thu 11/30/2006 09:56AM
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I fully agree with Sensi1. I was at that Fox Theatre show that was recorded for this released, and left after six songs of forgettable lyrics, guitar solos that wanked and had NO concept of spaces between notes, and predictible playing you've heard from Phish, moe. and others. I would have probably enjoyed them if I was in college, but as one of the old farts, chances are you will outgrow TLG very quickly as I did Phish over five years ago. YMWV!

festijam12 Thu 11/30/2006 10:47AM
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Mrdeez has it right...that Abbey show was amazing...you can get it off archive.org if u are interested, sound quality is not the best, but you the set/show will make you quickly forget. Please remember, these guys have a long way to go in their career, dont know exactly how old they are, but they have plenty of time to expand on their already amazing sound. Awesome band. Any Great American Taxi fans? Vince Herman and crew are going into the studio in January, should be sick!

festijam12 Thu 11/30/2006 10:52AM
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Almost forgot...i also got a chance to chat with these fellas after a few shows, great, down to earth guys, open to suggestions etc.

Sensi1 star Thu 11/30/2006 06:53PM
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The NEW meaning of TLG
Tools Love Garbage

festijam12 Thu 11/30/2006 07:31PM
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Sensi...for not liking TLG...u sure check their reviews a lot...and boy are you clever...i bet your the only one who could have came up with that acronym...way to go!

Teabagger starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/5/2006 08:43AM
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Sensi1 I look forward to not seeing you at any upcoming shows. They have a great crowd right now and it'd be a shame to ruin it.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstar Thu 2/8/2007 09:32AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Listen up!! If you listen to Franz Hanzerbeak on their album. YOU WILL UNDERSTAND.... nuff said...

Polkoka starstarstarstar Mon 6/4/2007 05:19PM
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it's great music period. not a lot more to say