The Seed That Flowered
"No matter what, the desire persists!"
I recently went with a few friends to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band--a blues/rock group led by married couple Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. One could consider them keepers of the great American musical traditions: the Blues, Rock-n-Roll, Gospel, and a bit of Jazz. Tedeschi's voice is known for its soul and power. Trucks is a virtuoso on the guitar. Together, they produce music that can make you want to get up and shout for joy or make your heart melt with longing.
I'm glad I got to see them; I certainly needed the food for the soul. And to get it from the masters of the craft makes a huge difference. The choruses were harmonious and balanced. All the players, from the back-up singers to the horns and the two drummers (because one isn't enough!), were perfectly in sync--the rhythm was in my soul. The solos could build up over the course of a three-minute crescendo that kept me on the edge of my seat. I could hear influences from The Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, avant-garde jazz; at one point, the pianist took a solo that was reminiscent of Bach. "Can you feel it? Bound for glory!" one song went. Yes I could!
One song, titled Anyhow, struck me in particular. Over a determined guitar riff, and with anguish in her voice, Tedeschi sang:
Woke up feeling all adrift
Pieced together what I missed
Realized that you pushed me out to sea
Followed from a lost place
Dealing with the wreckage in my soul
I was reminded of a line from Alan Lomax, the ethnomusicologist who documented many early blues and folk musicians. When describing the music of a particular blues-man, Big Bill Broonzy–who mostly ad-libbed his songs in the studio, never kept the recordings, and wanted others to build on his ideas rather than play them the same way he did–Lomax wrote, "These are the seeds of finished blues--most will die, some will grow and flower, but all will contribute to the power of the great dark river of the music, which better than any other art form, provides an expressive outlet for the American tragedy, which is the loss of love."
I understand why the Tedeschi-Trucks Band hit me so hard. I was witnessing the seed that flowered. And its expressive power touched the "American tragedy" in the wreckage of my soul--a place littered with failed attempts of success and personal gain, half-baked attitudes of independence and individualism, and indifference to the Other. In short, the loss of love.
The song, Anyhow, continues, however:
Everywhere I turn, there you are
So walk away with me (walk away)
I'll show you that
Oh, I would go anywhere, anytime
Ho, I would do anything, anyway
Tedeschi resolves to find what was lost and affirm what is good. No matter what, the desire persists! "Anywhere, anytime... Anything, anyway!" the back-up singers emphatically echo her resilience. The brass section comes in right after and expresses itself similarly, so powerfully one's knees start to buckle. (I'm pretty sure I saw the trombone player's starting to do the same.)
After the concert, a friend who I had invited (and is not religious but knows I am) remarked, "Peter! You managed to get me to go to Church!"
Peter, Chicago, IL