Following on from part one of our TTB double feature, we now take ‘Signs’ for a spin, and discover that it is food for the soul.
Released by: Snakefarm/Fantasy Records
Release Date: 15th February 2019
Genre: Blues-rock, Americana
Susan Tedeschi, Vocals and Guitar
Derek Trucks, Guitar
Kofi Burbridge, Keyboards and Flute
Kebbi Williams, Saxophone
Tyler Greenwell, Drums and Percussion
J.J. Johnson, Drums and Percussion
Mike Mattison, Vocals
Alecia Chakour, Vocals
Mark Rivers, Vocals
Tim Lefebvre, Bass
Eprhraim Owens, Trumpet
Elizabeth Lea, Trombone
- Signs (High Times)
- I’m Gonna Be There
- When Will I Begin
- Walk Through This Life
- Strengthen What Remains
- Still Your Mind
- Hard Case
- All The World
- They Don’t Shine
- The Ending
Marking their fourth studio album since forming in 2010, Signs lets you know from the opening riff you know you are in for something special. The amazing sonic clarity of that analogue sound cannot be beaten as you slide down into the groove of this spectacular work of musical art. A collaborative song-writing effort, the emotive and expressive songs on the album are propelled along by the excellent musicianship of the band, the incredible harmonies, and the power of Susan Tedeschi’s voice.
Opening song ‘Signs (High Times)’ is a swaggering, smoky, and soulful blues number that will make you want to get up and dance as though you were possessed by the holy ghost. Rolling into ‘Im Gonna Be There’ the song slinks along into a modern 70s grove underpinned by excellent musicianship of the band, as Susan Tedeschi’s vocals glide effortlessly over the notes, she reassures the listener that she’s, “gonna be there, through the thunder and the rain.” ‘When Will I Begin’ has been my hands down favourite track on the album. The song was fully conceived and written by Susan Tedeschi, and her deep connection to the track just pours out of it as her stunning vocals soar over this gospel infused ballad. This will be a stunning song live. As Derek Trucks explains, “I think it’s one really amazing song,” adding, “it’s got a pretty amazing arc to it, you know? And there’s something about a tune, that’s written by the person that’s singing it, and all written by the person that’s singing it, that I think makes it pretty powerful. When she delivers it, she’s not interpreting anyone else’s ideas, that’s her just spitting out what she’s thinking and feeling, and it doesn’t get much more direct that than. I think that’s probably why it hits me the way that it does.”
‘Walk Through This Life’ with its killer bass line pulsating through the track with its funk-inspired riffs blends seamlessly with the languid notes that play all over this track which harkens back to feel-good days of summers past. ‘Strengthen What Remains’ with its rich bass, and violin arrangement on the keyboards, offset by both the acoustic and clean electric guitar tone, give the song a very dreamlike vibe. The song is a reminder to embrace the beauty in life, “Oh, what a beautiful season Oh, take a look in the sky Oh, I can give you a reason Oh, it’s a beautiful life”. ‘Hard Case’ has all the energy and gravitas of a classic Aretha Franklin or Janis Joplin track. This feel-good song is radio ready and also the first single to be released on the album.
’Still Your Mind’ opens with a solo piano melody that builds into a positively alt-rock riff, before the band all comes together and drives the song home. ‘Shame’ points a laser scalpel focus on the divisions that are plaguing America at the moment, with Susan explaining, “It gets really tricky. We have to get rid of this wrecking ball mentality and remember that we’re all in this together,” adding, “we all come from different places, but our dreams and aspirations are mostly the same.” ‘All The World’ is a modern delta-blues, soul-singer ballad that follows on from the theme of ‘Shame’ and calls on everyone to come together and heal the divisions and rifts that surround us in these turbulent times. ‘They Don’t Shine’ is a classic blues-rocker that really shows of Derek Trucks’ guitar work.
‘The Ending’ this stunning, stripped back track is another stand-out track on the album. The emotion and power behind the vocal is absolutely palpable as the acoustic guitar almost struggles to contain it within the confines of the song. Reflecting on the profound impact the tragedies and losses the band suffered during the recording of Signs, ‘The Ending’ distils all that raw emotion into a tribute to friends and family members who have passed on like Derek’s uncle and Allman Brothers alumnus Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Leon Russell, B.B. King, and Colonel Bruce Hampton, who was a mentor, bandleader, and spiritual guide for many of the band. Reflecting on the ‘The Ending’ and the album as a whole, Derek explained that, “without Sue’s voice, it would be so hard to pull these songs together,” adding, “The emotion she conveys through these songs is so real. That’s something you just can’t fake.” Susan adds, “We have to deal with tragic circumstances at times. As a musician, I feel it’s my job to go out and kick ass the best I can and offer inspiration with passion in my voice and a smile on my face. That’s the only way you can give people hope, through motivation and positivity.”
Recorded at the band’s home studio, Swamp Raga, in Jacksonville, Florida, the album was mixed, engineered, and co-produced by Derek, Jim Scott, and Swamp Raga engineer Bobby Tis. Featuring guest contributions from Warren Haynes, Oliver Wood, and Doyle Bramhall II, as well as percussionist Marc Quiñones, this is truly a friends and family effort. “This is a special group of musicians,” Susan explains, adding, “All of these people we play with are extremely talented, and each of them could easily be fronting their own outfit. Everybody is so gifted, and we all realize how special this band is. We’re not going to mess it up. We’re going to keep working hard at it and move it forward.” The plush quality of the recording is thanks to the efforts by Derek, Jim, and Bobby to build an analogue studio to truly capture the band’s sound for the first time. Combining a Neve console, a 70s’ Studer tape machine, and every piece of analogue equipment they could cram into the studio, the result is a musical masterpiece. “This is the first record I’ve made where, when I listen to it, it puts me in a specific place,” Derek reflects. “It puts me in a zone and hits some raw nerves. People may not necessarily know about chord changes and how to articulate an arrangement, but they do know what matters and when you mean it.”
‘Signs’ is not your typical blues-rock album. It drifts in and out of funk, soul, and even the classic Mowtown sound of the 70s, and yet it’s all wrapped up in an original package. Everything feels and sounds fresh and modern, and yet has an air of historic nostalgia about it. I cannot recommend this album enough, particularly to you audiophiles out there who will find this recording to be like an eargasam. This album is food for the soul. It is intelligent, emotional, artistic, and at times challenging, and that is what makes this such a special album.
Written by: Erik De’Viking
My Global Mind – Reviewer / Music Journalist
Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include blues, rock, and metal in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.
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