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Music DVD Review: Susan Tedeschi Live From Austin, TX

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The women of blues come so few and far between, it would be easy to throw Susan Tedeschi headfirst into that category and call it a day. But Ms. Tedeschi is much, much more than just a woman of blues, as is revealed on her Austin City Limits performance.

Tedeschi’s depth and personality are in her voice and right away you know this chick can sing. In the same way Melissa Etheridge can sing, with control the likes of a sniper in a sand storm. There’s grit in the mechanism but a hit in the kill zone every time.

Well, almost every time.

I was first introduced to Tedeschi’s sizzle and soul, not to mention competent guitar handling at the 10th Annual Bayfront Blues Festival (1998) in Duluth, Minnesota, and then again that evening at the Bayfront Blues Saloon. During these two live performances, she was electric, the band cohesive, play list spot-on.

I walked away, satisfied I had just seen an up and coming artist with an unlimited range and huge cross-over potential, so much so that I bought her debut album at the festival and waited in line after she brought down the house at the Bayfront Blues Saloon to have it signed. Well, actually as I recall, the wind and rain and raging thunderstorm brought down the tent that she performed under.

Fast forward to the Austin City Limits recording of 2003 and you’ll catch just a glimpse of the potential I’ve seen from her past and future live performances. Her reserved stage presence is made up for by band mate William Green on Hammond organ. He wiggles and bops his way through the entire set, causing Tedeschi and myself to crack an occasional smile in his direction. All eyes are back on her when her riffs and runs take center stage.

A nice mix of cover tunes are nostalgically placed throughout the set, including work by Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and Koko Taylor. Tedeschi nails it on Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman” and makes Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” her own. However, for the same reason Faith Hill should have never covered Janis Joplin, Tedeschi should have steered clear of “Love’s in Need of Love Today”. Upon first review, during an uncomfortable opening to the song, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was missing. So I watched it again. And again. Then it hit me. What’s missing is Stevie.

Tedeschi rocks it out on her chart-topping single “It Hurt So Bad” and “I Fell in Love”. The DVD is worth a look to see these two performances alone. It’s clear throughout how this Grammy nominated artist got where she is today.

From gospel to R & B, Motown and pop, all the way back to the blues, Tedeschi carries a lot of weight on her petite frame, and clearly has the chops to pull it off. I just wish she’d amp it up on the showmanship.

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About Kathy Scovill