Tea Leaf Green | Rock ‘n’ Roll Band

While Tea Leaf Green clearly draws on this blueprint for success in a jam scene where receptiveness is relatively stable and open-minded, they do so without any overt mimicry of their predecessors.

 

cd_tealeaf(Sci Fidelity) On "Taught to be Proud," the 2006 Jammy Award winning "Song of the Year," keyboardist and primary songwriter of Tea Leaf Green, Trevor Garrod, knowingly chirps, "Gone, gone, gone, but not gone for long/if you're taught to be proud of where you're coming from." The voters for this award must have noticed that Garrod and Co. were borne out of the same city that produced psychedelic jam legends the Grateful Dead, a band whose folksy blues and soulful eclecticism no doubt had an influence on their fellow San Franciscans. While Tea Leaf Green clearly draws on this blueprint for success in a jam scene where receptiveness is relatively stable and open-minded, they do so without any overt mimicry of their predecessors.

Garrod's charming voice and cunningly simplistic piano playing leads an instantly likeable, yet often disengaging group on Rock ‘N' Roll Band, a live album/DVD highlighting, perhaps, what the quartet does best: straight-up, modal jam-rock. Like all good jam-live albums, Rock ‘N' Roll Band focuses on the steady groove, coupling the artist's recent success, such as the aforementioned highlight, "Taught to be Proud" and the guitariffic "If it Wasn't for the Money," with tracks that can only be accessed through such live releases. Of the latter persuasion, there are few that could be considered standouts, which reveals why the success of bands such as Tea Leaf Green rarely branches out beyond the live show, a platform from which their undeniable skill can be released with downhill momentum.

Teamed alongside the more than competent drumming and bass of Scott Rager and Ben Chambers, respectively, Garrod employs his casual back-porch voice with the smooth, unassuming timbre of a Keller Williams, or a less-tweaked out Devendra Banhart. Peppering his lyrics are themes of basic affection and connectivity, willingly weaving with guitarist Josh Clark's rolling leads, undoubtedly the driving instrumental force behind Tea Leaf Green. Garrod himself has acknowledged that his original desire to join forces with the rest of the band is due to his fondness for Clark's style of play, which follows in the progressive blues form of many of his heralded peers. Rarely does Garrod take the lead himself, but when he does, it's hard not to crack a smile. The no doubt talented multi-instrumentalist tickles flawlessly bluesy solos, honks a harmonica or two, and does so with the greatest of ease. Highlight of the accompanying DVD: Garrod's sincere and intimate acoustic performance, entitled "Flippin' the Bird."

While Rock ‘N' Roll Band is by no means a timeless experience, it is a worthy exhibition for a talented group of road warriors whose recent success (touring with Trey Anastasio, Dave Matthews Band, and Gov't Mule) is undoubtedly a sign of good things to come. Clearly having earned the respect of their peers, Tea Leaf Green seem confident in being themselves, a detriment at times to those seeking a more explorative group, but also a comforting thought to jam purists. B- | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: New Monsoon, Widespread Panic, the times when Phish stops jamming and sings songs

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