Soul Stew rings in 2008


Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival/North Mississippi Allstars/Scrapomatic
Fox Theatre
Atlanta, Georgia
December 31, 2007

There’s nothing quite as sweet as the sound of slide guitar, and it was on display in full force as husband and wife team Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi brought their Soul Stew Revival to Atlanta’s Fox Theatre on New Year’s Eve.

Scrapomatic opened the evening’s festivities, and set the bar fairly high.  Normally a duo comprised of Derek Trucks Band vocalist Mike Mattison and guitarist Paul Olsen, the band took the stage as a five-piece.  Augmenting the already solid band were guitarist Dave Yoke and former Codetalkers Ted Pecchio (bass) and Tyler Greenwell (drums.).


Scrapomatic was more "rock" than usual with their bigger line-up, and were phenomenal.  They offered up a great set, with tracks from Alligator Love Cry, and even threw in a laid back version of the Prince classic "1999."  While Olsen is a good guitarist in his own right and Mattison’s vocals are always top-notch, the band really benefited from the stellar work of the other three musicians.  Yoke is a guitarist cut right from the Derek Trucks mold in terms of tone.  His guitar rig must have either been borrowed from Trucks or set to his specs, because his sound was Trucks-esque, minus the slide.

nma_071231_1.jpgThe North Mississippi Allstars took the stage after Scrapomatic, and there couldn’t have been a better bridge act.  In an evening filled with slide guitar and family ties, it was only fitting that Luther and Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew were on the bill.  They stormed right into their energetic set with "Run On > Goin’ Down South > Shake," a statement that they had their A-game. 

The heat was turned up with a sizzling "Po Black Maddie > Skinny Woman > Po Black Maddie," the Allstars’ rollicking, joyous vehicle.  There are few songs out there that can get an entire room moving, and this was one of them.  Fists were pumping, people were sweating, and the room was bouncing as the Allstars gave "Maddie" a workout.  It was nearly ten minutes of pure guitar bliss.

Guitarist Luther Dickinson stepped to the mic and commented on how growing up as a young guitar player, there were two bands that he was really crazy about – the Allman Brothers and Jimi Hendrix.  Bassist Chris Chew followed that statement up with a "woooo," and they launched into a commanding take on Hendrix’s "I Don’t Live Today."  Luther burning up his fretboard as Chew laid down the bottom end, the song ebbing and flowing with the undulating audience.

The song of the set for the Allstars was easily "Soldier," a track from the their forth-coming release, Hernando.  Propelled by the drumming Dickinson, it was a behemoth of power.  "Soldier" is a little darker than the general Allstars repertoire, but it will surely grow into a mainstay of their live show.  The tune was a testament to what the band can do when they’re really zoned in; the rhythm section locked in as Luther weaved his guitar in and out.  The song started as a steady groove, built into a frenzied pace, and then slowedback down at the song’s conclusion.


The Allstars then invited out their host for the evening, Derek Trucks, and really got down to business with the Staples Singers’ "Freedom Highway."  When musicians of Trucks and Dickinson’s caliber get on stage together, one of two things can happen: it’s magic, or a trainwreck as the players struggle to find their place without stepping on the toes of everyone else on stage.  In this case, the Fox Theatre crowd got the former. 

The two young masters clearly have a great rapport, and when Trucks tore into his first solo of the night, the crowd went nuts.  He stayed on stage for the set-closing "Sitting On Top of the World > Preachin’ Blues," a great tune that built into a frenzy as the song came to an end, the Allstars giving way to the main event.

ssr_071231_3.jpgHow do you cook up some Soul Stew?  Throw in just a little bit of every genre, stirred together by some of the best musicians in the world.

By the time the clock struck midnight and 2007 became 2008, Derek Trucks, wife Susan Tedeschi and the Soul Stew Revival had made it abundantly clear that while Derek already plays in a "family" band with the Allman Brothers, when he gets his wife and brother (drummer Duane Trucks) together, they make great music as well.

The set opened with a well-interpreted cover of Cream’s "I Feel Free," and only got better as the night went on.  Susan Tedeschi and Mike Mattison traded vocals for most of the night, sometimes taking songs on their own, and often staying on stage to alternate verses of the same song.

The Lee Dorsey-penned "Get Out My Life" was great – Mattison conveyed perfectly the feelings of a scorned man; the song ended and Tedeschi announced that she had written the female take on the song, and belted out the new verses.  Kofi Burbridge broke out his flute during an emotion-laden version of Bob Dylan’s "Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright," and afterwards the Soul Stew brought out Luther Dickinson for a sizzling version of the Allman Brothers Band’s "Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’."  The version was superb – Dickinson fits the mold of a Brothers guitarist nicely, and he and Trucks battled it out with no clear winner.

As 2008 approached, the band moved into Aaron Neville’s "Hercules" with great results.  The song showed the versatility of the Soul Stew.  While the music was comparable with what each musician plays every night, it’s still necessary to put a fresh take on another artist’s song while doing justice to the original, and they definitely did so with "Hercules." It shuffled along at a leisurely pace, and as Trucks played some raunchy licks, the four horns howled in unison to give the song the funky treatment it warrants.

Sly Stone’s "Let Me Have It All" was one of the stronger songs of the night.  Ted Pecchio came back out but Todd Smallie stayed on stage, so there was a thumping dual bass line that powered the song.  Burbridge laid down some funk on the keyboards over wah-wah drenched guitar, and after the second verse Trucks let fly with a vicious solo of his own before settling into a guitar face-off with his wife, who more than held her own.  The song wound down and they segued into a solid treatment of Bob Dylan’s "Long Distance Operator," the end of which saw Trucks unleash another scorching guitar solo.


The best moments of the night were saved for the end of the second set.  The Soul Stew cooked up a double serving of Stevie Wonder, with a tasty "Sugar" that melted into the song of the show, "Do Yourself A Favor," which was nothing short of mind-boggling.  

The song started with a deep, pulsing bass line from Todd Smallie that led to a spot-on vocal exchange from Tedeschi and Mattison.  Kofi took the first solo section, leading into a great saxophone solo from Ron Holloway, which gave way to a decent little bit of fretwork from Tedeschi.  The song really lent itself to the Soul Stew line-up, as the full horn section kept coloring the verses and chorus while the percussionists pounded away.  Duane Trucks has steadily improved since he started sitting in with his brother, and Yonrico Scott certainly provides a solid teacher.  Scott had a smile on his face the whole night, and was as rock solid as always.


Every show has a "moment," that one unforgettable part of a show that you talk about for the next year.  The Soul Stew’s New Year’s Eve show "moment" was courtesy of Mike Mattison.  As the second chorus ended, he let out a primal scream of massive proportions, a note that maybe a handful of singers can hit.  He held it long enough for everyone in the room, even those who had drifted off into their own little worlds, to snap to attention.  The whole Fox erupted into a loud cheer, and in the midst of it all, Derek Trucks took the wheel, and shifted back into high gear with his virtuosic lead guitar style.

The show ended with Luther Dickinson coming back out for the encore, a great take on Derek & the Dominos’ "Anyday."  Though Dickinson handled some lead guitar duties, the song belonged to Trucks, which was fitting given his time playing with the guy who wrote it in the first place.

When the night ended, the packed Fox Theatre filed out into the Atlanta night.  It was a solid night of music across the board, and all in attendance would probably come to a consensus – the Soul Stew was cooked up to perfection, and it sure was tasty.  Hopefully it’ll be served up again a few more times in 2008. 




North Mississippi Allstars

Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi’s Soul Stew Revival