Album Review: Tedeschi Trucks Band’s “I Am The Moon” – Part Two, “Ascension”


By Scott McLennan

The high quality of the material presented so far justifies the decision of the Tedeschi Trucks Band to release these songs in small batches over a period of three months.

The second installment of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s “I Am the Moon” projects arrives this week, maintaining the same level of quality and exploratory gameplay as delivered in the saga’s first chapter earlier in June.

The Scrapbook Ascent to listen in full tomorrow evening on the band’s YouTube channel during the preview of the film made to accompany the release of the album. Ascent will then be released on streaming sites and will be physically available on Friday, the day before Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Wheels of Soul tour at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, NH. TTB keyboardist Gabe Dixon will open this bill with his solo band followed by Los Lobos and a headliner from TTB.

“I Am the Moon” is a concept piece, drawing on the stories and themes featured in the epic 12e century Persian poem “The Story of Layla and Majnun” by Nizami. The 12-piece band Tedeschi Trucks wrote and recorded the songs during the pandemic lockdown, when touring and traveling were out of the question.

The story’s tangle of heavy emotions, engendered by forbidden love, isolation, separation, family, nature, longing and rapture – to name just a few of the poem’s subjects – has inspired an impressive array of new materials to add to TTB’s already rich repertoire. .

The jump from the inaugural release of Increasing (artistic fuse examination) to Ascent establishes that TTB did not intend to write a narrative-style rock opera driven by an interpretation of Nizami’s work. Instead, in this album we find a more subtle mood shift. Whereas Increasing felt full of awe and intimacy, Ascent probes the tensions of separation.

“Playing With My Emotions” opens the 7-song album with a propulsive groove-rock hit shaded with funk beats and Latin accents. Susan Tedeschi sings from both the female and male perspectives of frustrated partners, bringing into the song cycle, with a twist, the theme of pain as an inevitable part of love. The sparring isn’t just about words, either, as Tedeschi and hubby Derek Trucks engage in spirited back-and-forth guitar soloing.

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Photo: David McClister

Ascent is a showcase for Tedeschi in particular. She handles the vocal tracks throughout (sharing a bit with Dixon), which makes her the album’s central narrator. In this role, she navigates the album’s varied stylistic terrain with ease, which ranges from the campfire gospel of “So Long Savior” (on which she also plays drums!) to the alcoholic influence of “La Di Da”.

Melancholy comes and goes throughout this disc, which suggests the next two chapters to follow. The painful “Hold That Line” and the joyful “Ain’t That Something” have glimmers of amorous joys, but the separations, the departures and the feeling that time is running out are increasingly important.

“All The Love” is the centerpiece of the album, giving the band the opportunity to unload all they have to offer. Tedeschi’s vocal delivery feeds the song’s prayerful lyrics as the horns and fellow singers build dramatic scaffolding around his vocals. Then the melody turns into a long instrumental passage that undoes this scaffolding, with Trucks leading the horns and rhythm section through chaotic playing that eventually fades into near silence – before the musicians regroup in a passage which suggests vulnerability and uncertainty.

The high quality of the material presented so far justifies TTB’s decision to release these songs in small batches over a period of three months. As it slowly pulls back the curtain on the full reveal of “I Am the Moon,” TTB dispenses with an astonishing amount of detail and design to consider and enjoy. The band cultivates anticipation in a way that feels more authentic than whimsical.

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.

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