June 7, 2024

This post also appears in MusicFestNews.com.

The pairing of Little Feat to open for the Tedeschi Trucks Band on their current “Deuces Wild” tour is pure musical manna. Both bands have adventurous guitar driven soul and blues foundations and are deeply etched into the roots music landscape. Both are musically fearless, and make you want to boogie. And if I had to pick one guitar player alive to listen to the rest of my days, it would be Derek Trucks.

TTB’s Southern California swing included two nights at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, sandwiching a date in San Diego that fell on Derek’s birthday (with a setlist to match). I long ago snagged Swamp Family seats about four rows back for the Friday night show and had been following set lists of the tour so far. I knew to expect some surprise covers done up as only this 12-piece can (a large unit I’ll always say is as nimble as a jazz trio, but with the fire of a volcano), with a helping of tunes from their ambitious four record “I Am the Moon” project and plenty of older nuggets.

Opening with back-to-back cuts from “I Am the Moon: II. Ascension”(“Playing With My Emotions” and “Ain’t That Something”), a Wood Brothers cover (“Smoke Ring Halo”) and a Roosevelt Sykes tune (“44 Blues”), they dove into TTB favorites with the stomp of “Made Up Mind” and the summer sway and slow burn of “Midnight In Harlem”, with Derek dropping more than a tease of “Little Martha” in between. The Allman de jour was a pretty faithful treatment of Greg’s “Come and Go Blues” into “Yes We Will” from “I Am the Moon: III. The Fall”. But it was the slippery and spiky punch of “Let Me Get By” that really got the juices flowing, until TTB busted out a cover of Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” which felt like I’d been waiting my whole life to hear this band and that tune, and just didn’t know it. Susan’s cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” was an earthier companion to Bonnie Raitt’s, with a comparable verklempt factor and led into a tender “Sugaree”, that was far removed from the churn of Jerry and the boys. The uplift of “Idle Wind” led into drummers’ Tyler Greenwell and Isaac Eady segment of lockstep rhythmic discourse, full of all the right punches and accents, eight limbs in harmony, then sticking the landing as Idle Wind found the ground to finish the set. An encore that began with saxophonist Kebbi Williams freely and furiously improvising, cutting loose untethered solo runs joined by drummer Eady, had the rest of the band joining on “Last Night in the Rain” from “I Am the Moon: IV. Farewell” and a cover of Matthew Moore’s “Space Captain”.

Trucks stuck to his trademark SG throughout with Susan leaning on her blue Tele (signed by guitar heroes like B.B. King) as well as her Strat and Les Paul. The interplay between the two was joyful, especially Derek’s beaming accompaniment to Susan’s many stinging, bluesy solos. A shoutout to trombonist Elizabeth Lea as well, for her fiery duel with Derek late in the set, not to mention Ephraim Owens on trumpet to fill out the horn section. While Kofi Burbridge still feels in the room, Gabe Dixon kills it on keys. The powerful vocals of Mike Mattison have been there from the beginning, and Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour on harmony got nice moments of their own. Bassist Brandon Boone stayed in front, over and under that double drummer driven rhythm section.

I’ve been a huge Little Feat fan going back to the Lowell George days, and they remain one of the most underrated bands ever. “Waiting For Columbus”, their 1978 live double LP, still holds up as one of the best live albums I’ve ever set ears on. In recent years, founding drummer Richie Hayward and guitarist Paul Barrere passed away and I wasn’t sure how these guys would carry on, as both brought so much to the rad gumbo that was, and still is, part of their unique musical stew. Billy Payne’s keys, Ken Gradney on bass, that baritone of percussionist Sam Clayton and guitarist Fred Tackett are still here, and they are not going anywhere. Guitarist Scott Sherrard (formerly Greg Allman’s musical director) has stepped in to some pretty big sailing shoes, and drummer Tony Leone is now behind the kit, and I’m here to tell y’all that their opening set was simply smoking. A “Waiting For Columbus” flash forward from the “Join the Band” playback into “Fat Man in the Bathtub” and touching all four sides of that vinyl with “All That You Dream”, “Oh, Atlanta”, “Spanish Moon/Skin It Back”, “Willin’” and “Dixie Chicken”. The band recently dropped on all blues record featuring Sam Clayton’s growling vocals throughout, and while I wasn’t tickled by the detour when I caught wind of a new one from the band, I owe it another listen after hearing Scott Sherrard just tear into “Mellow Down Easy”.

These two bands are national treasures in my book. To catch them together in one of my favorite outdoor venues was a night they let it roll, and roll they did.

 

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