Susan Tedeschi: 'Hope and Desire'

Susan Tedeschi is considered one of the best up-and-coming blues singers and guitarists. Her newest CD is called Hope and Desire. Music journalist Ashley Kahn spoke with Tedeschi about her career and her music.

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(Soundbite of music)

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you've never heard that guitar...

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SUSAN TEDESCHI: (Singing) Well, sick of your lies...

Group: (Singing) Sick of your lies...

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) ...tired of my tears...

Group: (Singing) ...tired of my tears...

INSKEEP: ...or that bruising voice, then this is the morning you're being introduced to Susan Tedeschi. She's just arrived at a major label, and her new album is called "Hope and Desire." She spoke about it with music journalist Ashley Kahn.

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ASHLEY KAHN reporting:

Susan Tedeschi may be only 34, but she already has a lifetime of musical experiences to draw from.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) I want security, yes. Without it, I'm not a...

KAHN: It's all there when she unleashes that voice from deep inside, a strong dose of soul with the fervor of gospel, jazzy precision and a lot of blues.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Oh, security, yes, and I want it and then it costs.

I try to look for songs that have some kind of, you know, just soulful, gutsy, ballsy kind of attitude towards it.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Oh, security is what I want right now.

KAHN: It's hard to say when it all began for Tedeschi. There are so many starting points: performing in musicals as a child, studying jazz and classical during her teen-age years at Boston's Berklee School of Music, or maybe it was just passing that audition to join a large gospel chorus.

Ms. TEDESCHI: And I got into the choir, and ever since then, I've just really been blown away by how emotional that music can be. When I got my first solo, it was so amazing to feel 50 people singing behind you. You know, that's the biggest rush I think I've ever had.

KAHN: What was the solo?

Ms. TEDESCHI: Oh, I sang a song called "Come On In This House." Do you want me to sing it?

KAHN: I'd love to. I'd love to hear it.

Ms. TEDESCHI: I don't know the guitar part, but a cappella is something like, (Singing), `Standing on the outside and looking in can be so lonely. You can know the joy, so my Jesus told me. Let 'em in your heart today, you, too, can be a part. Why don't you come on in this house and praise the Lord? Oh.'

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KAHN: Church music was not the only source of inspiration for Tedeschi. After college, she got hopelessly hooked on another style of music after hearing an album by Chicago bluesman Magic Sam.

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MAGIC SAM: (Singing) Easy baby, mmm, oh, easy baby...

Ms. TEDESCHI: I got a Magic Sam record, "West Side Soul," and that just ruined me. His voice, pure power, and then his guitar playing, I mean, he was the first one I heard the reverb...

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Ms. TEDESCHI: ...you know...

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Ms. TEDESCHI: ...like all that just blues madness. I just was, like, I want to do that. I want to do that. I want to do that so bad.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Easy baby, mmm, easy baby. Oh, easy baby. Oh, I want to love you night and day.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: That's the idea. I don't know.

KAHN: Tedeschi has been on the scene for a while now, since the release of her debut album in 1998. Her first recordings were a bit uneven and seemed to ask if she was being limited by the blues, though she sees no problem with that.

Ms. TEDESCHI: If I'm, you know, in that mind-set and you're just playing in a bar and it's dark and you just dig in, I miss those days where you can just play blues and just get all nasty.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Oh, feeling all torn up, just don't know which way to turn. I'm going to turn my head straight to these blues...

KAHN: The blues scene has always boasted a limited number of headlining guitarists who are women, and Tedeschi gets repeatedly compared to Bonnie Raitt, another bluesy guitarist known for her soulful voice, but Tedeschi is her own woman.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Well, you can't tell me you went out with the boys. I sure enough got you this time. I got the...

KAHN: On her new album "Hope and Desire," Tedeschi agreed to concentrate on singing and leave the string bending to others.

Ms. TEDESCHI: And it really, you know, freed me up to just really focus on the vocals, which was fine.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) I sure 'nough got you this time. I got the evidence.

Group: (Singing) I got the evidence.

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Oh, yeah. The verdict is guilty all the way.

KAHN: Tedeschi is also an accomplished songwriter, but her new album does not feature any of her own tunes. It's a set of well-chosen songs that show off her voice, whether she gets with the grit and volume or goes for a little tenderness.

Ms. TEDESCHI: I had never heard, "Lord, Protect My Child," and I'm a huge Dylan fan, but I'd never heard it. I'll sing a few of the verses. It won't be in exact order, but...

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) But until men lose their chains and righteousness reigns, oh, Lord, protect my child. Oh, yes. Oh, Lord, protect my child. Oh.

KAHN: Tedeschi is a mother of two and is married to well-known guitarist Derek Trucks who plays with The Allman Brothers Band and is busy pursuing his own career. Trucks' tasteful slide guitar can be heard on a couple of tracks on his wife's new album.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: Well, honestly, Derek--to me, there is no other guitar player out there like him. I mean, he sounds like an old gospel singer, it's like (sings).

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KAHN: There's a lot of great moments on Tedeschi's latest album, and there's also the promise that her own tunes will reappear on her next. If her ability to get inside the work of other songwriters is any indication, that will be something to look forward to.

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Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Oh, babe, you've got my soul, you've got the silver, you've got the gold.

INSKEEP: Susan Tedeschi's new CD "Hope and Desire" has recently been released. We heard about it in the latest report from Ashley Kahn, a regular guest on this program and author of the book "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album."

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) No, no, no. There's a prize.

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