By Scott McLennan
Increasing gives us the first five songs of the I am the moon suite and lasts approximately 35 minutes. Let me rephrase that: it’s about a perfect 35 minutes of music.
Rather than just releasing a new record, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is embarking on an ambitious endeavor this week to release new material on four albums, each accompanied by a film made up of images designed for each of the new songs.
And it’s not just a bag of tracks written while the band members were locked up during the pandemic. Instead, the new material is inspired by and tied to the 12e epic of the century The story of Layla and Majnun written by the Persian poet Nizami.
And yes, that is the same “Layla” who was behind Derek and the Dominos’ masterpiece Layla and other assorted love songsEric Clapton’s painful howl of desire for Pattie Boyd, who happened to be married to his friend George Harrison.
And yes, that is the album released on the day Susan Tedeschi was born and produced by a short-lived band consisting of both Clapton and Duane Allman who eventually served as Derek Trucks’ namesake as well as eventual guitar playing influences.
And yes, that is the album which the married co-founders of the Tedeschi Trucks Band chose to perform in its entirety with guest guitarist Trey Anastasio at LOCKN’ Festival 2019 and later released commercially in 2021, just as some of the band’s new tracks have started surfacing in a series of live performances produced for a live series called Fireside Sessions. (artistic fuse exam)
Between the performance of the group of Layla and other assorted love songs and the Fireside Sessions, and during the pandemic lockdown period when touring wasn’t an option, TTB singer and songwriter Mike Mattison suggested everyone in the 12-piece band read Nizami’s poem and to ponder (or ruminate, as he stated in the album cover notes) all of his steamy treatment of unattainable love, especially from Layla’s perspective, given that Derek and the Dominos are getting together. are focused on his pain as the object of Majnun’s obsessive desire.
The end result is I am the moon, whose first entry is Increasing, which arrives tomorrow via the band’s YouTube channel accompanied by a film directed by Alix Lambert. The music will be available for purchase and streaming on June 3.
The entire work will consist of 24 songs, not a track beyond what it would take to release a double CD. But, given the obvious cautious intent of LOCKN’s performance thus far, the band is doing everything possible to make I am the moon on the art and not on the product. If this is how TTB can slow down the flow and encourage listeners to immerse themselves in the project, so be it.
Increasing gives us the first five songs of the suite and is about 35 minutes long. Let me rephrase that: it’s about a perfect 35 minutes of music.
On this project, we hear TTB capture in the studio what he does so well on stage, which is to engage every member of the 12-piece band in a beautifully conversational way. Horns, vocals, keyboards, drums, bass and guitars rise, fall, dance and wrap around each other. The goal is to artfully enrich a musical canvas: not to overwhelming the senses with ferocity, but to inspire listeners to open up to the variety in this multi-faceted and emotionally resonant work.
“Hear My Dear” opens Increasing on a contemplative note. The metaphors of being lost in the desert come directly from Nizami’s poem; the imagery of catching someone through a beautiful melody is straight out of the TTB playbook. The song provides a nice slow build; it’s the kind of genre act the band specializes in. The group is inspired by many traditions without being beholden to any.
“Fall In” speeds up the tempo and the mood. Mattison leads this exuberant number, rolling out seductive lyrics that waver on the absurd but somehow strike a chord (“The devil is just a point of view / Hidden in the details, true / How will they remember from you”).
“I Am the Moon” is an amazing number written by keyboardist Gabe Dixon. Dixon and Tedeschi share vocals on this soaring track that captures the angst of Layla’s predicament: she’s horrified by Majnun’s madness and desperate over their forced separation. Dixon joined the TTB in 2018 on a temporary basis which turned into an unexpected full-time role following the death of founding keyboardist Kofi Burbridge. With the “I Am the Moon” shows, Dixon made the difficult transition: shaping the band’s direction while preserving Burbridge’s legacy.
“Circles ‘Round the Sun” is an urgent-sounding rocker, full of pent-up anxiety and punctuated by choral chants and guitar fireworks. A panting rhythm retains the maelstrom.
“Pasaquan” closes Increasing and the song is the Derek Trucks instrumental masterpiece we’ve all been waiting for. During her tenure in the Allman Brothers Band from 1999 to 2014, Trucks performed “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, “Jessica”, “Hot ‘Lanta”, “Mountain Jam”, and “Les Brers in A Minor” sufficiently times to understand the DNA of an instrumental whose goal is to take the listener on a powerful journey. “Pasaquan” takes its name from the sculpture park in Georgia created by foreign artist Eddie Owens Martin (1908-1986). (He is also known as ST. EOM; his voice is heard at the end of “Circles ‘Round the Sun'”). The tune is credited to Trucks, drummers Tyler Greenwell and Isaac Eady, bassist Brandon Boone and Dixon. Each of these musicians memorably contributes to this 12+ minute jam. But the personality of this song is all Trucks, full of guitar lines that sound, rise and dig, moving in stages that complement each other while allowing everyone in the ensemble to make the dynamic shifts needed to change the mood. and the feel of the track. Ultimately, “Pasaqan” proves to be liberating due to its fiery rhythms and chiming melodies. But the challenges posed by the tragic story of Layla and Majnun – which touch on the obstacles we all face every day – are evident in the performance.
I am the moon off to a promising start with Increasing. The saga continues with the film premieres of Ascent June 28, The fall July 26, and Fare good August 23. Music releases will follow on Fridays after the YouTube movie premieres.
Scott McLennan covered music for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette from 1993 to 2008. He then contributed music reviews and features to the boston globe, Journal of Providence, Portland Press Heraldand WGBH, as well as artistic fuse. He also ran the NE Metal blog to provide in-depth coverage of the region’s heavy metal scene.