Made Up Mind, the second studio album from the Tedeschi Trucks Band, contrasts considerably with Revelator in that it showcases the strength of an 11-piece band willing to experiment as they assimilate inspirations -- from Stax, Muscle Shoals, Motown, Delaney & Bonnie, blues, and jazz -- and incorporate their various experiences into a new whole. Co-produced by Derek Trucks and Jim Scott, there is an increased emphasis on songwriting and more sophisticated arrangements. At the behest of Sony, Susan Tedeschi and Trucks invited other songwriters (some old friends) to contribute to these songs, adding perspective. They include Doyle Bramhall II, John Leventhal, Gary Louris, Eric Krasno, and Sonya Kitchell. Tedeschi's voice has developed into one of the most expressive in modern music; she receives outstanding choral support from Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers. Trucks' lead and slide guitar playing have evolved, creating new possibilities for the instrument; it remains the anchor of musical direction for this massive ensemble, that also boasts a horn section, keyboards, two drummers, and four alternating bassists. It always stands out, but rarely dominates. The title opener is a roaring blues-rock boogie. Tedeschi wails atop punchy gospel piano from Kofi Burbridge and a ripping slide guitar solo with horns blazing. A funky clavinet introduces the Sly Stone-inspired "Misunderstood." Trucks' silvery wah-wah guitar drives chunky horn fills, a grooving B-3, and tough vocal exchanges between the vocalists. Tedeschi and Saunders Sermons duet on the fingerpopping soul tune "Part of Me," which recalls Motown's early years; his sweet falsetto is the perfect foil for her grainy contralto. Trucks' guitar fills accent the call and response vocals in the second half, and the Northern soul melody is contrasted by a grittier Stax-style horn chart. The ballads -- the spiritually poignant "It's So Heavy" and the devastating, broken love song "Sweet and Low" -- with their subtleties and canny arrangements display a real TTB strength. It is no mean feat to deliver music this intimate and personal with such a large ensemble. On the rockers, everybody is engaged at a heightened level, as in the funky, grimy, blues-rock strut of "Whiskey Legs" and the off-the-rails roil of "The Storm." On the latter, hard rock, blues, and jazz intertwine, and Trucks gets the opportunity to spiral off into the exploratory void. Closer "Calling Out to You" is simply his National steel guitar caressing Tedeschi's voice in a tender love song. Made Up Mind is tight, though it maintains the gritty, steamy, Southern heart displayed on Revelator, though on some level it feels just a bit restrained. Everything these players have assimilated throughout their individual careers is filtered through the group consciousness. When it expresses itself fully, historical and cultural lineages are questioned and answered in their dialogue. It's a sound that is instantly recognizable, sure, but it also offers a nearly limitless set of sonic possibilities. three years in, this is the sound of a band that's just getting started. Watch out.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek