Coming out of the pandemic, there seems to be a real sense of renewal happening with the Tedeschi Trucks Band–which, when fully deployed, includes 12 members.
Part of that feeling comes from the return to touring, as a six-person lineup–essentially the core of the Tedeschi Trucks Band–hit the road in June playing drive-in and socially distanced shows. They play Johnny Mercer Theatre on Nov. 20.
“We’ve played a bunch of different types of places, like drive-ins, where people have their drive-up spot and then they also like have a pod next to it so they can get up and dance. So that was interesting,” said singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi in a mid-July phone interview. “And then we’ve had a lot (of shows) where people have their little spaces, like a little pod area and that’s been cool. People seem to like it. They kind of have their own space to dance and do stuff and nobody right on top of you, which is kind of nice. So it’s been good.”
What’s also exciting for Tedeschi is the band–which is now touring in the full 12-person configuration–is incorporating a lot of fresh material into the live shows. The band has started playing a few songs from the catalog of the Derek Trucks Band, the group guitarist/songwriter Trucks fronted from 1997 until he and Tedeschi (the couple married in 2001) formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010, as well as Tedeschi’s five solo studio albums she released from 1995 to 2008.
Fans are also getting treated to Tedeschi Trucks Band versions of songs from the classic 1970 Derek & the Dominos album “Layla.” The group has just released the Aug. 24, 2019 performance of the entire “Layla” album from the LOCKN’ Festival. For that one-off show, the full Tedeschi Trucks Band was joined by guitarists Trey Anastasio (of Phish) and Doyle Bramhall II (who plays with Trucks in Eric Clapton’s touring band). Clapton, of course, was the featured member of Derek & the Dominos.
“It was really beautiful, and having the whole big band there, too, with the horns and the singers, it really just added so much,” Tedeschi said, looking back at the “Layla performance. “So it was super fun. We had a great time. It was very surreal though, like I remember being very nervous and excited and almost a little overwhelmed just because that stuff doesn’t happen every day.
“Really, it was a great experience to work with Trey,” she added, noting she and Trucks hadn’t worked with Anastasio before the “Layla” show. “He’s really a fabulous guitar player, a super sweet guy, and just getting to hear him and Derek and Doyle all play together was just such a treat. You just don’t get to hear that kind of musicianship all the time.”
In addition to releasing “Layla Revisited: Live From LOCKN’,” Tedeschi said plans are set to release the 2015 LOCKN’ performance of the Joe Cocker album “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.”
The Tedeschi Trucks Band was joined for that show by the 12 surviving members of that legendary tour, including Leon Russell (musical director for the original “Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour), Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Chris Robinson (of the Black Crowes) and Bramhall II.
“That is actually a documentary as well,” Tedeschi said of the movie “Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs & Englishmen,” which was released on Oct 22. “Yeah, they filmed a lot of that and it’s being made into a movie. It’s really cool.”
As if that isn’t enough, a new Tedeschi Trucks Band studio album is also tentatively planned for a January release. The album will be culled from 25 songs written and recorded during the pandemic.
For now, Tedeschi said she is really appreciating playing concerts again, and feels the group is growing as a unit after what had been a trying period.
In February 2019, keyboardist, flautist and songwriter Kofi Burbridge died from complications related to a 2017 heart attack. Gabe Dixon, who also fronts his own Gabe Dixon Band, stepped in to replace Burbridge, while bassist Brandan Boone took over for Tim Lefebvre, who left the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2018, joining Trucks, Tedeschi, singer Mike Mattison and drummer Tyler Greenwell in the six-piece core lineup.
Drummer J.J. Johnson, Kebbi Williams (saxophone), Erphraim Owens (trumpet), Elizabeth Lea (trombone) and harmony vocalists Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour round out the full band.
“It was very traumatic losing Kofi. And that is not an easy role to play (in the band),” Tedeschi said. “Really moving forward, we feel incredibly blessed with Brandon and Gabe. They really have added so much and they’re such a positive force in the band, and the core is just getting tighter and tighter and we’re learning more about each other and everything from the ‘Layla’ project, everybody loves playing on those tunes, to writing our own stuff to playing old catalog stuff. Everybody is quick learners and really just enjoy doing this again and being able to play live in front of an audience. We don’t take it for granted now after having that time off.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band “Signs 2020 Tour” kicks off Sat. Nov 20, 7:30 p.m. at Johnny Mercer Theatre at the Savannah Civic Center. Tickets and information can be found at ticketmaster.com