On her first outing in three years and her freshman offering for Verve's Forecast label, Susan Tedeschi digs deep into the soul and R&B fakebook for inspiration and comes out a winner. With an all-star band that includes guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, pianist David Palmer, organist Jebin Bruni, bassist Paul Bryan, drummer Jay Bellerose, and guests including husband Derek Trucks and the Blind Boys of Alabama, Tedeschi goes down into her own heart's well for inspiration. Wonderfully produced by Joe Henry, Hope and Desire is truly a singer's showcase of passion and class; she has signature phrasing and is an excellent interpreter.
With mid-'60s gems like Violets of Dawn, Thirsty Boots, and Close the Door Lightly, Eric Andersen became the archetypal, literate romantic before the likes of James Taylor and Jackson Browne had even cut their first records, but at the same time seemed to lack direction from album to album. With his eighth album, Blue River, recorded in Nashville in 1972, he found the perfect setting for his gentle, poetic songs. After nearly seven years of dabbling in folk, folk-rock, pop, and country, Andersen found a smart, sympathetic ear in producer Norbert Putnam. Putnam, whose production here is rarely extraneous, utilizes subtle touches of bass, drums, accordion, and organ along with Andersen's own guitar, piano, and harmonica to frame the material. The record, Andersen's first effort for Columbia, also featured his best collection of tunes to date. Blue River, with its themes of uncertainty and struggle, is by no means a casual record, although songs such as the bittersweet "Is It Really Love at All" and the title track, featuring Joni Mitchell's ethereal supporting vocal, will draw the listener in with their sheer beauty.