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Back to the River

Susan Tedeschi

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Album Review

With a vibrant, versatile voice (sounding at times like an inspired mix of Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt) capable of adding subtle emotional shifts to slow-burning ballads or rocking out with the big boys, Susan Tedeschi burst on the scene at the close of the 1990s like a breath of fresh air in an era of prefab MTV teen idols. Like Raitt, Tedeschi works from a blues base, but she mixes in a strong sense of R&B and gospel, and with Back to the River, her second release for Verve Forecast, she shows that she's really starting to find herself as a songwriter, as well. Tedeschi wrote or co-wrote all but one of the 11 tracks here, and while one could still say these songs are based in her beloved blues, like Raitt, she has branched out from there to become a solid pop artist with a real and accessible vision, and the blues is just the engine under the hood. There are some wonderful moments here, including the big and funky title track, "Back to the River," which Tedeschi co-wrote with swamp pop master Tony Joe White, the sincere and solid "Learning the Hard Way," co-written with Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, and the impressive "Butterfly," which Tedeschi' co-wrote with her husband, Derek Trucks. The lone cover, a marvelous, horn-driven version of Allen Toussaint's "There's a Break in the Road" (originally recorded in 1969 by Betty Harris), fits seamlessly in with the newer material. Then there is Tedeschi's voice, which is a wonderful instrument, strong and hushed by turns, and she carries the full weight of the world's possibilities when she sings, ranging from wounded to determined, delicate to brash, always getting to the emotional center of the song. Tedeschi has already put out some great albums but as she continues to grow as a songwriter, her best work may still be in the future. Meanwhile, Back to the River will serve fans just fine.

Biography

Born: 09 November 1970 in Boston, MA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Susan Tedeschi is part of the new generation of blues musicians looking for ways to keep the form exciting, vital, and evolving. Tedeschi's live shows are by no means straight-ahead urban blues. Instead, she freely mixes classic R&B, blues, and her own gospel and blues-flavored originals...
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Back to the River, Susan Tedeschi
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