The Teskey Brothers | Live at the Forum | (Glassnote Records)
4 out of 5 stars
You won’t wait long to get blown away.
As soon as vocalist Josh Teskey starts singing with his taut, effortless, gusty Memphis styled voice, you’ll wonder why you haven’t heard of this amazingly talented American before.
Perhaps that’s because Teskey and his band hail from down under; specifically Warrandyte, Australia (a suburb of Melbourne). Josh joins an ever expanding list of contemporary blue-eyed soul singers such as St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ Paul Janeway, Allen Stone, Nathanial Rateliff, Eli “Paperboy” Reed and others currently bringing the retro vibrations of 70s soul alive. Teskey takes the rugged rasp of Gregg Allman, adds some Otis Redding testifying and even a dollop of Sam Cooke to smooth out the rough edges as he, his lead guitar playing brother Sam, and a crack rhythm section crank out original R&B nuggets few will be able to tell apart from the classics of the genre that have clearly influenced them.
Like The Allman Brothers Band, The Teskey Brothers decided to go the live route after only two well received but hardly breakthrough studio albums. It was a smart move. They brought analog tape machines to capture a four night, sold out stand at the titular Melbourne theatre, chose the best moments and loaded up a single disc with 14 songs. It’s an hour and 20 minutes of tight, tough tunes and muscular, earnest performances. Similar to the Allman’s At Fillmore East, Live at the Forum captures The Teskey Brothers’ rousing spirit in its natural habitat where their musicianship and sheer joy of playing is instantly apparent.
The Teskey’s sound resonates with the tension and release recognizable from Muscle Shoals’ music, complete with an added horn section, violinist and keyboards to boost, but never clutter, the live arrangements. Listen to “Rain” and you’ll immediately check to see if it is a Redding cover as the horns punctuate Josh’s howling vocals and sweaty church-fired delivery.
Heartfelt electricity is infused into every selection. From the bluesy lope of “Crying Shame” to the pounding grind of “Paint My Heart” with its earthy harmonica/lead guitar solos and most interestingly, a warm, pulse pounding version of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” (inspired by Donny Hathaway’s rendition), there are no weak moments.
The band stretches out over 10 minutes for a version of their own deep blues “Honeymoon” (which bears a passing similarity to the Allman’s “Not My Cross to Bear”) with multiple tempo changes including an extended Sam Teskey guitar solo, and closes with “Hold Me” as the noticeably enthralled audience enthusiastically sings and claps along.
Only an unnecessary if mercifully brief drum solo and the frustrating fade out of the last track prevents this from being a near perfect live recording, one that does what all great concert albums do. It transports the experience of an obviously special run of shows into your home with all the soul stirring exhilaration The Teskey Brothers deliver when the band is in full flight. Since it will be a while before concerts return, this is an even more valuable document. It’s a visceral representation of a group firing on all cylinders and the verge of a major commercial breakthrough.