CD Review of Already Free by Derek Trucks Band
Derek Trucks Band: Already Free
Recommended if you like
The Allman Brothers Band,
Eric Clapton, Arc Angels
Derek Trucks Band:
Already Free

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

lide guitar prodigy Derek Trucks was marked for greatness from a young age as the nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks. But while many children/relatives of rock stars struggle to make their own mark, Derek Trucks is blazing a trail of his own. With skills recalling the legendary Duane Allman, Trucks could do fine as a hired gun, and has filled that role, to a certain degree, with both the Allmans and Eric Clapton. But the DTB has become a force of its own, and Already Free shows Trucks coming into his prime.

A cover of Bob Dylan and the Band’s "Down in the Flood" opens the album with a blast of blues power. Trucks throws down riffs recalling Jimmy Page’s work on "Traveling Riverside Blues," followed by an exploration of a more Allman-esque nature. Vocalist Mike Mattison delivers a gritty, old-soul voice here and throughout. Bassist Todd Smallie and drummer Yonrico Scott have been with Trucks since the mid-‘90s and it shows, with the band sounding cohesive and tight. Keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge and percussionist Count M’Butu add a veteran touch that gives the band a diverse blend of youth and vintage musical wisdom.

Guitarist/vocalist Doyle Bramhall II, who played alongside Trucks in Clapton’s band, delivers lead vocals on "Maybe This Time" and "Our Love," with the latter recalling Bramhall’s soaring work on his Arc Angels hit "Sent by Angels." Trucks’ wife Susan Tedeschi sings lead on "Back Where I Started," a slow acoustic blues recalling how great they’ve sounded together on their Soul Stew Revival tours of the past two summers.

Another stand out track is a cover of Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn’s "Sweet Inspiration," a selection suggested by Carlos Santana. It starts off featuring Mattison in a street-corner type vibe, before building into a feel-good rocker that will surely be a highlight of the upcoming tour. Trucks’ playing here is oh so tasty, and the overall sound is blues-rock manna for the soul. "Don’t Miss Me" is sort of a blues march away from a bad time, while "Get What You Deserve" is an up-tempo stomp, with Trucks’s slide darting in and out of Mattison’s vocal lines in expert style. The whole band shines on Big Maybelle’s "I Know," which starts off simmering and then boils into another hot jam. The title-track closes the set with some vintage slide, with Trucks and the band sounding re-incarnated from Robert Johnson’s era.

With Tedeschi having released her best album yet in the fall, it’s no surprise that Trucks is now following with the same. What’s the common angle? The two summer tours together in their Soul Stew Revival configuration, mixing both of their bands and repertoires along with a variety of blues and rock classics. The ensemble enabled both to grow musically and it clearly shows. Fans can now only hope that a Soul Stew Revival album is coming next.

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