Tedeschi Trucks Band - I Am The Moon: II. Ascension - 180g Vinyl LP

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TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND - I Am The Moon: II. Ascension - Overview
by David Fricke

Ascension – the second record in I Am The Moon, the new studio release by Tedeschi Trucks Band and their boldest undertaking with 24 original songs over four full-length albums – is rightly named. From the opening Memphis-soul churn of "Playing With My Emotions" to the country-church stomp "So Long Savior" and the exhilarating slide-guitar climax "Hold That Line," Ascension continues the unique fusion of ancient narrative and highly personal reflection in I Am The Moon with the urge to soar that is second nature to the best rock & roll big band in America.

"Did it ever feel like there was too much or that it didn't all fit? No," Trucks says of the musical breadth and emotional dimension of I Am The Moon, extended even further in the four movies (one for each album) that comprise I Am The Moon: The Film, directed by Alix Lambert. "The thing we always came back to was the through line" – the 12th-century love story, Layla and Majnun, by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, suggested by TTB singer-songwriter Mike Mattison as a group-reading experience and potential lyric spur in the first months of the pandemic.

"We thought that would be a point to start from, and maybe we'd never come back to it," Trucks continues. "But everything tied back to it in some way."

"It was overwhelming at first," Tedeschi confesses. "At the same time, I love how it cross-references what was going on in the world at the time" – the early stages of lockdown and the stress on families and relationships, including those in TTB's inner circle. The band wrote and arranged the songs over the last half of 2020 at the Trucks' farm in Georgia, then recorded the four albums at their Swamp Raga studio in Jacksonville, Florida. "We had the idea of how to look at things," Tedeschi says, "as we watched the world go by."

"We've never written to a concept," Mattison says of TTB, which he joined at the outset after eight years with the Derek Trucks Band. But Layla and Majnun, based on historical characters passed down through Arabic legend, "had so many points of view, different strains to pull on to start writing. I thought, 'What a way to include everybody's voice.'"

The seven tracks on Ascension were written collectively, in various combinations, by Trucks, Tedeschi, Mattison, singer-keyboard player Gabe Dixon and drummer Tyler Greenwell. Bassist Brandon Boone was at the farm for arranging and rehearsals. Singers Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour and the horns – trumpeter Ephraim Owens, saxophonist Kebbi Williams and trombonist Elizabeth Lea – put their mark and heart on the songs at Swamp Raga.

But Trucks credits Mattison with the initial vision for I Am The Moon. "When he passed that idea around, we all had the same thought – 'This is perfect!'," the guitarist says. "He's one of the pillars of this whole thing, going back to my band. I trust his take on things. And I love what he came up with."

"He has impeccable timing and insight into the whole scene," Tedeschi says with awe and fondness. "This band wouldn't be the same without him."

And now, song by song, this is Ascension . . .
"Playing With My Emotions"

"I try to write with Susan in mind," Mattison says, pointing to the frustration and kiss-off in this R&B storm, written from both sides of the romantic divide and delivered by Tedeschi like she's had a bellyful of each. "I always tell her, 'I like 'Mad Sue,'" Mattison adds, laughing, "when she's singing and starts pointing with that index finger. It's like, 'Oh, yeah, it's gonna happen.'"
"Ain't That Something"

This hearty contradiction of brawling funk and emotional resignation (You served it up, I let it slip away/Ain't that something) began with Dixon's keyboard riff and vocal melody. "Egoless is a good way to say it," Mattison claims, characterizing the group-writing sessions for I Am The Moon. "We kept messing with people's ideas, playing with them like Silly Putty." At one point, while working on this tune, "Derek had this riff for the bridge, and it came together. Sometimes you can tell songs have been Frankenstein-ed. But 'Ain't That Something' – you can tell it was organic."
"All The Love"

This nine-minute trip starts in modal-blues mantra with Tedeschi's simmering urgency in the choruses (All the love we've found/All the love we've let fall down) before heading into an instrumental orbit that suggests the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star" wreathed in brass scored by Gil Evans. "There's a handful of tracks that are just straight live," Trucks says of I Am The Moon. "All My Love" is one of them. "We captured a thing and decided not to mess with it."
"So Long Savior"

"That was an idea we had when the band wasn't here – it was me and Sue in the studio," Trucks says of this gospel romp, detonated with just guitars, percussion, and holy, vocal fervor. "Sue got behind the drum kit, and we tracked it with the two of us. We added Brandon and the singers later." Mattison, who co-wrote "So Long Savior," describes it as "almost pessimistic gospel: 'Salvation isn't coming.'" Amid the doubt and darkness of the pandemic, "We thought that was pretty relevant."  
"Rainy Day"

A mid-tempo ballad of candor and assurance – water as rain and tears, but also cleansing. Tedeschi's vocal rises in certainty as Trucks' guitar slices through the gloom and the horns and singers build to a sunny crescendo – proof that this band's ensemble strength and soloing electricity can even change the weather.
"La Di Da"

"A lot of times when you're on your own, it becomes very spiritual," Tedeschi says. "You connect with a higher energy. You have faith that things will work out. And sometimes you have to let go" – the crux of "La Di Da," a declaration of independence in waltz time and country-porch strumming that opens up with brass, choral singing and decisive, slide guitar. "When I wrote it," Tedeschi continues, "it was the image of being able to let somebody grow up and be free – to let them go and celebrate that."
"Hold That Line"

Ascension concludes in exile and determination, Trucks' slide guitar weaving through the song like hope on the wind as Dixon and Tedeschi sing to each other as if over a great distance (Out here hanging on a string/Holding so tight, I feel everything). "That was surprising to me, how much Susan and I spent singing in octaves," Dixon says. "It wasn't something we had done before a lot. She had the main part, and I would just sing an octave below. It's a nice blend."



SKU 888072434431
Barcode # 888072434431
Brand Fantasy / Concord Music Group

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