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Left Lane’s CDs of the year

Tedeschi-Trucks Band: Taking Blues to new places

December 29, 2011
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

Talk about holy matrimony! I do declare.

As solo artists, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks earned Grammy nominations for creating award-winning blues.

Imagine, then, the possibilities when the happily-wed couple entered a Jacksonville, Fla. studio and laid down tracks for a joint collaboration.

From Sony's Masterworks label came "Revelator," a hot summertime release featuring Trucks' incredible fret work and Tedeschi's near pitch-perfect vocals.

The 12-track disc includes several co-writes between Tedeschi and Trucks. They are joined by a number of friends including Gary Louris, John Levanthal, Doyle Bramhall II, among others.

Brothers Oteil and Kofi Burbridge are part of a nine-piece backing band which makes for a marvelous listening experience.

Thus, "Revelator" was a relatively easy choice as the Left Lane's 2011 CD of the Year. Tedeschi and Trucks toured extensively this past year, including a headline performance in July at Pittsburgh's annual Blues Festival at Hartwood Acres.

Overall, we felt 2011 was a solid year for both established and new artists as the Lane's Top 10 list reflects.

The industry as a whole continues a high tech trend as struggling music store outlets continue to decrease in alarming numbers.

While satellite radio subscribers are afforded a diverse range of outlets, commercial radio offers far few options.

Here are the LL's top 10 records for 2011 and a few additional gems which just missed making the final cut.

1. The Tedeschi-Trucks Band: "Revelator" - Not surprising this sterling disc is Grammy-nominated for 'Best Blues Album of the Year.' Trucks was recently voted 16th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. Hearing is believing.

2. The Black Lillies: "100 Miles of Wreckage" - Folk, rock, country, bluegrass. Don't even try attempting to categorize this east Tennessee outfit, fronted by songwriter/acoustic guitarist Cruz Contreras and joined by a crack backing band which created one of the year's most memorable projects. Go out of your way to discover this band.

3. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: "Here We Rest" - Isbell, a former member of southern rockers, The Drive-by Truckers, came out of nowhere with this exceptional spring release recorded at Muscle Shoals, Alabama's legendary Fame Studios. Isbell and his backing band are comfortable in diverse musical territory. His adept ability as a songwriter made for a totally engaging listen.

4. Ruth Gerson: "Deceived" - In which the California convert teamed with top shelf producer Rick Chertoff to create the year's most unique concept record. All 11 songs here deal with a dark theme and Gerson pulls it off magnificently. Her cover of Dolly Parton's 60s-penned 'Down From Dover' is a mesmerizing masterpiece.

5. Patrick Sweany: "That Old Southern Drag" - The ex-Buckeye needed a change of scenery to emerge with this springtime melding of blues-rock. Sweany, a formidable guitarist, relocated to Nashville and wrote all 12 tracks, including the memorable, "Leave Ohio." Just saying.

6. The Decemberists: "The King Is Dead" - Some fans of this Portland, Oregon-based quint cried foul, chastising frontman Colin Meloy for emerging into the mainstream. Supporting players include REM's Peter Buck and Americana standardbearer Gillian Welch.

7. Connie Smith: "Long Line Of Heartaches" - The West Virginia native and Country Music Hall of Famer transformed longtime fans back to the 60s with this late August release of mostly original material. Five of the disc's 12 songs were co-written by Smith and husband Marty Stuart. Be on the lookout for Smith this coming April when she performs at Moundsville's historic Strand Theater.

8. Moreland & Arbuckle: "Just A Dream" - Kansas duo appear ready to make their presence felt on next summer's national festival circuit as Wheeling Bluesfest fans will confirm. Yet another smoldering disc of movers and shakers. The duo wrote eight of the album's 12 tracks.

9. Glen Campbell: "Ghost On The Canvas" - His self-proclaimed final studio disc puts a definitive stamp on a remarkable recording career spanning six decades. Contributing writers here include Jakob Dylan, Paul Westerberg, Billy Corgan and Brian Setzer.

10. Gregg Allman: "Low Country Blues" - They don't make 'em like this anymore. Teaming with producer T Bone Burnett, Allman emerged with an inspiring set of songs which stand up to any he's recorded over a Hall of Fame career. 'Low Country' joins the Tedeschi Trucks disc Grammy nominated for Blues Album of the Year.


HERE'S a short list of competing records which narrowly missed making the LL's top 10: Tara Nevins: "Wood & Stone;" Gary Clark, Jr. "The Bright Lights EP;" The Jayhawks: "Mockingbird Time;" Nicole Atkins: "Mondo Amore;" The Gourds: "Old Mad Joy...."

Gibson may be reached at



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