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Interview:
Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band come together as kindred spirits on summer tour
 

By GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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On paper, the summer teaming of the Black Crowes and Tedeschi Trucks Band certainly looks like a no-brainer, a meeting of musical kindred spirits.

But it's the kind of thing the two groups say they find all too rare in their respective worlds.

"I remember Derek (Trucks) and my manager and I sitting around thinking about, 'If you could tour with somebody who is going to be able to play in...a bigger style, who would you want to play with?' " remembers Trucks' wife, Susan Tedeschi. "Derek has very slim pickings on that; he doesn't really want to play with anybody. But he was really excited bout trying to play with the Black Crowes. He really respects them and loves them and thought it would be good to mix the two bands."

And the feeling is mutual according to Black Crowes' frontman Chris Robinson.

"It's pretty much the same storyline on our side," explains Robinson. "Where (Trucks') mantle is placed, so is the Black Crowes'. But it really is a no-brainer, like, 'Let's go out with one of the deepest, funkiest, soulful bands out there.' I love it."

Both groups are certainly cut from a similar cloth when it comes to making music.

Hailing largely from the American South (the Crowes from Atlanta and Trucks from Florida while Tedeschi hails from Massachusetts but now lives in Jacksonville with Trucks and their two children) the bands are rooted in blues, R&B and classic rock, with touches of jazz and gospel in the mix. They also value improvisation and abhor any sense of limitations or institutionalized parameters -- though the Crowes have connected to the tune of more than 35 million albums sold since forming in 1989.

"It's the earthiest tour with its head in the most celestial places," says Robinson, 46. "That's always going to be interesting for us, and that's always, I think, going to be interesting for peopel who are more demanding about their concert experience than just, 'We went and we took some pictures and we bought a T-shirt' or whatever."

Tedeschi, 42, adds that, "We're not going for the commercial racket, because at the end of the day we all know that isn't what it's about. We do this because we love it and we're trying to play music and play great music."

They're not doing it separately, either. The groups have been playing together during the encore of the Crowes' closing set, vamping through covers of songs by Eric Clapton, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland and Ray Charles. "Ideally this is a music-oriented event," says Robinson. "Knowing a lot of the people in Susan and Derek`s group and knowing everyone in my group, it's kind of hard to keep everybody off the stage if there's a jam -- and I mean that in the best way."

The stage isn't the only place where the groups are plying their trade, however. Tedeschi Trucks is using the tour to set up its second studio album, "Made Up Mind," which comes out Aug. 20. The group recorded it at Tedeschi and Trucks' Swamp Raga home studio, and she says the troupe "is really in a much better place now" than it was when it made its debut, 2011's "Revelator."

"I guess we're all kind of comfortable in our positions in the band now," says Tedeschi, who's released five solo albums while Trucks, 34, also plays in the Allman Brothers Band (he's drummer Butch Trucks' nephew), has been part of Eric Clapton's band and maintained his own group between 1994-2010.

"After having our solo careers for 15, 20 years, both of us, It was kind of hard finding our role at first. But I think everybody's just settling in and we've created a sound after being together for three years, and going into the studio we just felt a little bit more at ease with opening up and playing. You can feel the band stretching out and playing a little bit more and...just kind of doing whatever feels good."

Things are also feeling good in the Black Crowes camp these -- which hasn't always been the case, particularly between Robinson and his younger brother, guitarist Rich Robinson, who co-founded the group with drummer Steve Gorman. The Black Crowes have always run on emotion," Chris Robinson acknowledges, "and the music is indicative of that." But in recent years differences have been ironed out and the group, which this year added singer/songwriter/guitarist Jackie Greene to its lineup, has learned to build some space into it schedule to allow its members to pursue other creative venture.

This year's spate of touring, in fact, comes after a three-year hiatus that the singer calls "an adult, reasonable decision about what to do with our lives. And because of that, we're in a really good place now."

The expectation is the current trek will lead to some new music from the Crowes, whose last album, "Before the Frost...Until the Freeze," came out in 2009. "I'd be amazed if it didn't," says drummer Gorman, who hosts a sports radio talk show in Nashville. "I'd be very surprised if we talked at the end of this tour, whenever it really ends, and I didn't say, 'Yeah, we worked up a bunch of new tunes. There's some cool stuff.' "

Chris Robinson, meanwhile, says no new material has surfaced yet. "We're still just kind of scratching our heads wondering why everyone's getting along so well," he says with a laugh. But he too predicts that the band, which has tour dates booked into mid-December, will likely find itself in the studio again soon.

"I don't see anything that would derail that," says Robinson, who also plans to release a new album by his Chris Robinson Brotherhood band in 2014. "The only real part of it that's an enigma is we don't have any plans past December. It's just typical Black Crowes world. You kind of take it as it goes and stay in the moment as opposed to looking behind or looking ahead too much.

"We won't be on the road next year or anything, but that hopefully will open a window for us to get some new music. I know Rich and I have discussed it, so, yes, that would ultimately be the goal."

The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band and the London Souls perform at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, at the Meadow Brook Music FEstival on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester Hills. Tickets are $85 and $49.50 pavilion, $35 lawn. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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