I’ve had to revise my first impression of Susan Tedeschi. Over a decade ago, when she was touring the country via chick band tours (e.g., Lilith Fair), I thought Tedeschi was just another out of the catalog of blue-eyed blues women with potential and not much else. Caucasian women trying to cut it in the blues are legion, and often they play guitar and perform onstage much like their male counterparts.
While Tedeschi did not channel any bluesmen, the story of her path to the blues was not unusual. A Massachusetts blueblood, she first heard the music via her father’s ancient collection of vinyl. Gospel choirs would bring out the power of her voice. Later, Boston’s surprisingly strong music scene would nurture her public performance. She learned guitar, put together a band, and made a record that was well received. Nothing unusual, right? So what am I hearing now that I didn’t hear back then?
The best I can come up with: confidence, maturity, and craft. Little over a decade later and approaching 40, with impressive record sales, a Grammy nomination, and the solid-gold handshake of a Stones tour under her belt, things have changed for Tedeschi. She now sings with the authenticity of a woman twice her age, one who might have actually lived the life from plantation to Civil Rights and all that. There is a lot of knowledge in Tedeschi’s robust voice, and it is approaching original. She has delivered on her early potential, and she continues to refine. But I have to admit that I held some prejudices about white musicians doing blues. This subject came up recently with a white blues-guitarist friend who questioned even his own authenticity. By the end of that conversation I decided that, as time passes, the argument about who has legitimate claim to — and can sing — the blues grows thin.
SUSAN TEDESCHI, Belly Up Tavern, Sunday, February 15, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $38; $40 day of show.