LIVE FROM AUSTIN, TX.
Taped last year for the PBS program "Austin City Limits," this 15-track CD could serve as Exhibit A for anyone trying to make the case that Susan Tedeschi's studio recordings aren't nearly as enjoyable as her live performances. But the singer and guitarist's latest release certainly won't please those who would rather hear her stick to bar-band blues than evoke Bonnie Raitt's genre-crossing journey.
Susan Tedeschi, eclectic as ever on "Live."
Tedeschi has been something of an accidental blues star ever since her 1998 breakthrough CD, "Just Won't Burn," emphasized the gritty side of her vocal personality. Even that album included a version of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery," clearly modeled after Raitt's poignant rendering, plus other performances that pointed to broader influences. Then in 2002 came "Wait for Me," vividly illustrating Tedeschi's taste for all things rootsy and soulful.
"Live in Austin," also issued on DVD, is a similarly eclectic offering. After getting off to a wobbly start with a lackluster version of Sly Stone's "You Can Make It if You Try," Tedeschi frequently reinvigorates tunes that appeared on "Wait for Me." She mixes torchy ballads, including terrific performances of that album's title track and "Alone," with the spiritual musing "In the Garden" and a distinctive, Hammond B-3 organ-shaded rendition of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."
Featuring two keyboardists, her quartet veers into jam-band territory on "Hampmotized" and eagerly follows Tedeschi's wah-wah guitar lead when it comes time to funk up Koko Taylor's "Voodoo Woman." No match for the legion of flashy guitar slingers running around these days, Tedeschi nevertheless contributes a few concise and expressive solos that get the job done. What's more, she can always get by on vocal talent alone, as she proves when belting out her signature hit, "It Hurts So Bad," or when quietly revisiting "Angel From Montgomery" at the album's close.
-- Mike Joyce