Tedeschi Trucks Band, “Midnight In Harlem”

Tedeschi Trucks Band is an anomaly in today’s music industry, a group with a horn section and backup singers that actually mixes and masters its albums with a real stereo system and two speakers in mind. And onstage, two of American blues and roots music’s finest practitioners – singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi and her guitar-legend-in-the-making husband Derek Trucks – bring down the house every night, performing songs like a number that is at least partly the creation of background singer Mike Mattison, “Midnight in Harlem.”

The song, from the band’s Grammy-winning 2011 debut Revelator, is credited to Trucks and Mattison, but the lyrics are generally attributed primarily to Mattison, who was the lead singer in TTB’s predecessor, the Derek Trucks Band. One of the group’s better-known pieces, “Midnight in Harlem” is subject to interpretation when it comes to what Mattison had in mind as he wrote the lyrics. But some of the lines are universal and can apply to anyone’s pain (I was running from the past/My heart was bleeding/And it hurt my bones to laugh), in any city in today’s world (I went down to the river/And I took a look around/There were old man's shoes/There were needles on the ground). This is more than a case of a couple guys sitting down with a guitar and putting some chords together with a lyrical thought. Because even though Mattison has been an accomplished musician and singer for decades, he’s probably the only vocalist and lyricist in modern music who has a degree in English and American literature from Harvard.

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