Saturday, Riverbend Music Center will host the inaugural Ohio River Throwdown. The one-day event features three stages and a powerful, eclectic lineup of Roots music artists from all over the country.
The performers on the bill include the Grammy Award-winning String Band sounds of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Tex-Mex Rockers Los Lobos, the funky Blues of JJ Grey & Mofro, the genre-bending Alejandro Escovedo, singer/songwriter Beth Hart, the 1930s-Jump-Blues-is-cool-again sounds of Pokey LaFarge and the classic Soul and Funk of The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker.
Another interesting group slated to perform is The Rides, made up of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stephen Stills, Blues axe master Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Electric Flag co-founder Barry Goldberg. Other acts featured include J Roddy Walston & The Business, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, locals The Tillers and Joshua Black Wilkins.
Headlining the fest is the Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB). The 10-piece unit is on fire right now, touring the country behind a well-received new album called Made Up Mind. At the heart of TTB are songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist Susan Tedeschi and her husband Derek Trucks, considered to be one of the best guitarists on the planet. The group’s mix of horn- and guitar-driven grooves run the gamut from Blues to Rock to Soul. And their Made Up Mind album recently debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and No. 1 on the Blues chart.
“When we finished making this record, I had a pretty good feeling about it,” Trucks says. “You never know how things are going to be received. But whenever you finish a project that you spend that much time on, you have a pretty good idea about how you feel about it and what you think about it. And with this one, there are no soft spots. … I think it has lasting potential.”
One highlight on Made Up Mind is the beautiful and mellow “Calling Out to You.” The number, like the band’s earlier “Midnight In Harlem,” may become a new classic for the band.
“That’s a beautiful song,” Trucks says. “That (recording) was one of the first times that Susan and I ever played it. Eric Krasno (of Soulive and Lettuce) was down at our studio and we were doing some writing with him and we were just demoing songs
“That is the beauty of having a studio in your backyard, as there really is no difference between a demo and the record, other than what you call it,” Trucks continues.
There is also plenty of firepower on Made Up Mind with Trucks’ guitar amped up and ripping on songs like “The Storm” and the title cut.
“When we were writing ‘Made Up Mind,’ Oliver Wood was down to the studio,” Trucks says. “I love his stuff with The Wood Brothers, and he is great to write with and he had the seed for that song. He had that Gospel turn-around. I remember that we were both plugged into these funky amps and coming up with that guitar riff and then we were off to the races.”
“With ‘The Storm,’ I had the music and the riff and the general arrangement for a while and it was just a matter of finding the right lyric for it,” Trucks continues. “I had the melody and everything and then John Leventhal was down and he is from New York City. They had just lived through Hurricane Sandy … and we were listening to this old John Lee Hooker song about the Tupelo floods and he was like, ‘Man, let’s just write some old, Blues flood lyrics. Let’s just write about a damn storm.’ ”
Another hard-rocking cut with a funky undertow on the new album is “Whiskey Legs.”
“That one came together pretty quick,” Trucks says. “Susan had the idea of thinking about when you go out after the shows. Generally, everyone onstage is sober when you get off stage, and you end up at some club to have a drink after the show and usually the crowds are not sober. It was her idea that occasionally you get stuck in a situation where everyone around you is coming from another place.”
Trucks has performed in the Cincinnati area for many years, going back to his younger days with The Derek Trucks Band, as well as many trips as a member of his “other” group, the legendary Allman Brothers Band.
“I don’t remember my first visit, but I definitely remember playing Ripley’s quite a bit,” Trucks says, referring to the long-defunct club in Clifton Heights. “That was a good hang. We’ve had some great shows there. And over the last eight to 10 years, when we’re in Cincinnati, I always go by that vintage music store, Mike’s Music. A lot of the stuff in our studio came out of that place, a lot of the old Fender amps, the Deluxe and the Pro-Reverb amps that I use. The gear out of that store has gone far and wide. And I knew about Ludlow Garage and some of the stuff further back. One of Susan’s grandmothers lived (in Cincinnati), so she spent a lot of time there while growing up. But yeah, between Ripley’s and Bogart’s and all of these other places in town, we’ve had some great shows there over the years.”
Ohio River Throwdown Lineup:
Gold Stage begins at 12:45p
Carolina Chocolate Drops
J Roddy Walston & The Business
JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound
Joshua Black Wilkins
PNC Pavilion Stage begins at 2:30pm
The Rides feat. Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg
Riverbend Music Center Stage begins at 5:30pm
Tedeschi Trucks Band
JJ Grey & Mofro
TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND joins a cast of all-star Roots acts at the Ohio River Throwdown festival Saturday at Riverbend Music Center. The fest starts at 12:45 p.m. Tickets and more info: riverbend.org.