Derek Trucks Band releases new album "Already Free

By Sam Robertson

After listening to “Down In The Flood,” the first single off the Derek Trucks Band’s new album “Already Free,” it’s clear that the work represents a transition from the wild instrumental improvisations that characterized their previous attempts into a more song-oriented, rootsy blues sound. “Down In The Flood” is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1967, when he was living with The Band in Woodstock, New York, playing music with them all day and night in the basement of their house, Big Pink. The music was informal and fun, and never intended for commercial release, although it was later released by Columbia as “The Basement Tapes.” The music they produced during these sessions included elements of folk, blues, and country, often within the same song. This – combined with the relaxed, comfortable vibe of the recording – created a genre of music that has come to be known as “roots” or Americana music. The choice of “Down In The Flood” shows that the Derek Trucks Band is beginning to explore something that has been relatively unexplored so far in their music: Americana roots music.Derek Trucks is the nephew of Butch Trucks, drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, and has been playing guitar since he was nine years old. By the time he was twelve, he was sitting in with the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan. He quickly became recognized as a guitar prodigy and then an official member of the Allman Brothers Band when he was twenty. Over the past ten years, Derek Trucks has also become one of the busiest men in the music business, touring heavily with the Allman Brothers Band and his own Derek Trucks Band every year, as well as with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, and Eric Clapton. For the most part, Trucks has become famous for his playing with the Allman Brothers Band and Eric Clapton, but his work with the Derek Trucks Band has always been outstanding, and that trend continues with “Already Free.”

“Already Free” is a natural progression for the Derek Trucks Band, a group that has managed to make all of their records sound unique and fresh, a rarity in their world of heavy-touring jambands. On the band’s first album, they covered Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and Derek Trucks was producing sounds from his guitar that nobody had ever heard before. With each following album, the band expanded their sound in some way. Soon they were able to capture the sounds of the Allman Brothers, John Coltrane, Santana, and Ravi Shankar all on the same album, sometimes even in one song. With the addition of singer Mike Mattison for the album “Songlines,” the band became tighter and more focused on their song instead of their jam. Their 2006 album, “Songlines,” plays more like a “band” album instead of a showcase for Derek Trucks’s guitar playing. “Already Free” continues in this vein, but is even more successful. This album sounds much more like the rich soul blues of Little Feat and Delaney & Bonnie than the space of Miles Davis and Ravi Shankar. The same thing can’t be said for the group’s other albums (even “Songlines” had its share of spacey jamming). On “Already Free,” Trucks’s guitar playing shines, but in a subtler way. His playing complements the songs instead of being the central focus of the songs as it often was in the past.

Despite Trucks’s restrained playing, there are still plenty moments when he steals the show, especially during “I Know” and “Our Love.” However, the other members of the band really shine, too. Mike Mattison’s soulful vocals are just as important to the album as Trucks’s guitar, and Susan Tedeschi lends her bluesy vocals to “Back Where I Started” which evokes country blues classics by the Rolling Stones like “Sweet Virginia” and “Salf of the Earth” and is undoubtedly one of the album’s highlights. The title track, “Already Free,” could pass for a Robert Johnson blues song from the 1930s if it weren’t for Trucks’s tasteful but very subtle electric guitar. In the words of Trucks, Jay Joyce, who produced the album, “really opened up my head and unlocked the possibilities of the studio. It unlocked the doors of all those great Hendrix records, Beatles records, Stevie Wonder records.” Joyce was able to help the Derek Trucks Band produce an album that doesn’t sound exactly like anything Hendrix, The Beatles, or Stevie Wonder produced, but does have the same warm atmosphere of those albums and deserves to be considered as a classic, rootsy blues album.