Already Free

The Derek Trucks Band

Derek Trucks has come a long way in his short and spectacular career. An old school sensibility, a loyal base of friends and family members who helped him get there, and a prodigious, almost scary aptitude on guitar — Derek Trucks is a world-class musician to be reckoned with and admired. Already Free, The Derek Trucks Band’s seventh and most personal album, makes good on its promise of homespun care and feeding. Encompassing a wide range of styles and influences, this 12-song CD, produced by Trucks, has everything lovers of modern and vintage music appreciate and savor.

Regular gigs with Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers Band most certainly have had an impact on the development of Truck’s talents. Then again, he’s been playing professionally for 20 years. With everything weighing on his next move, Trucks built a home studio, assembled the core group of players — bassist Todd Smallie, percussionist Count M’Butu, drummer Yonrico Scott, keyboardist Kofi Burbridge and singer Mike Mattison — invited a few friends like Clapton bandmate Doyle Bramhall II, Oteil Burbridge and wife Susan Tedeschi, and proceeded to get busy.

Never one to shun his roots, Trucks and company open up with “Down In The Flood,” a Bob Dylan tune from the 60s that fits nicely into the repertoire. It is here where the band, for the uninitiated as well as those in the know, establishes the direction of the record. The soulful gruff of Mattison’s distinct vocals rubs up against Trucks slide work — pushed along by a rigid rhythm section that bends and rolls around the melody. And it only gets better. “Something To Make You Happy,” “Maybe This Time” and “Get What You Deserve” each get an extra lift from Bramhall’s guitar and vocal contributions. Hailing from a musical family — his dad played drums with Stevie Ray Vaughn — Bramhall sets the scene on “Our Love,” strumming his acoustic lightly and delivering a smooth lead vocal. Then Trucks bats clean-up; his stinging guitar strokes slither in and out of the break, before fading into the distance.

Spread out on a bed of blues, soul, gospel, jazz and southern-flavored rock, the songs on Already Free are interconnected and part of a bigger tapestry, a mural of colors and pastels for the ears. Caught in the hyperkinetic jump of “Don't Miss Me” or the lazy allure of “Days Is Almost Done,” it’s just as easy to get swept up by the simple and subtle touch of “Back Where I Started,” a bluesy drawl written by Trucks and Warren Haynes, and beautifully sung by Tedeschi. Arriving at the title and final track — which receives the benefit of Uncle Butch Truck’s fine percussional touches — it’s almost like a short good-bye, a way of saying thanks for stopping by and listening. In truth, thanks should go to The Derek Trucks Band for keeping the spirit and imagination of roots music alive and cooking for friends and family everywhere.

~ Shawn Perry

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