Have you heard of Derek Trucks? He began playing with the Allman Brothers band at age 11, becoming an official member in 1999. At 17, Derek released his first album. Since then, the Grammy nominated Trucks has released 6 albums with his band, toured with Eric Clapton, jammed with Bob Dylan, recorded with McCoy Tyner and played with some of the greatest musicians of all time all before his 30th birthday.
In 2009, the Derek Trucks band released their 7th album entitled Already Free and I submit that it is one of the best recordings of the year. Produced by Derek Trucks and recorded at his home studio in Jacksonville Florida, the record has an organic vibe. The music seems to get better and better with each listen revealing complex flavors much the same way as a fine bottle of red wine opens up after being uncorked and left to breathe for a few hours. Already Free defies classification. The album has the aroma of blues and southern rock – roots music, and a hint of Indian and gospel with a long jam band finish.
The first tune “Down in the Flood” is a cover of a Dylan song first recorded in ’67 and officially released in ’75 on the Basement Tapes. Derek Trucks reinvents Dylan’s folksy original with his signature slide guitar playing. Mike Mattison’s raspy pipes inject the song with some blues, quite a contrast to Dylan’s nasal twang. Whereas Dylan’s sound is tinny peppered with a breezy harmonica producing something you’d hear from an old pickup truck with an AM radio, Derek Trucks soulful, caffeinated sound is a high fidelity adrenalin rush.
Here’s a quick rundown of the other 11 songs on the album:
Something To Make You Happy. This bluesy tune evokes the magic of Stevie Ray Vaughn and oddly reminds me of “Jackie Blue”, that classic Ozark Mountain Daredevil tune I remember liking so much as a teenager.
Maybe This Time. Doyle Bramhall II is the vocalist on this one. Derek’s guitar whines and cries and near the end takes on the persona of a sitar. Indian blues. Would V.S. Naipul approve?
Sweet Inspiration. Gospel revival. What you might hear at a rural church one Sunday morning with a dancing chorus and lots of amens from the congregation. Inspiring.
Don’t Miss Me. I feel like I’m in the swamps of Jacksonville where this album was recorded. Murky waters. Doobie Brothers “Black Water”. I can smell a fish fry and is that a lightning bug in the distance? Watch out for the gators.
Get What You Deserve. Vocalist Mike Mattison’s composition. Hard driving fuzzy guitar sounds. Reminds me a little of ZZ Top.
Our Love. A Doyle Bramhall II tune and one of my favorites on the album with Doyle on lead vocals. The moody tones of the guitar project a roller coaster of emotional states – passion, sadness, desperation, resignation, hope, devotion reminiscent of a Coltrane solo. And there’s a vulnerability to Bramhall’s vocal – a quality I sometimes hear in some of Miles Davis’ recordings when he plays a muteless trumpet.
Down Don’t Bother Me. Southern rock here. Atlanta Rhythm Section. A Mike Mattison composition. Derek’s guitar is smoking like a cured ham. I hear some Duane Allman and Johnny Winter influences in the playing.
These Days Is Almost Gone. Blues. Paying tribute to Elvin Bishop perhaps? “Your second chance could be your last…don’t be late because the sun won’t wait”.
Back Where We Started. Derek’s wife, Susan Tedschi, on vocals. Very nice ballad. Almost like a response to “Our Love”. A good dose of acoustic guitar.
I Know. Another one of my favorites. Starts off with sitar like vibrations. And then, jam band time. Feeling some Allman Brothers. And some brass and woodwinds in there somewhere. “I won’t be blue”.
Already Free. The bluesiest tune of the lot. Timeless. “The world has passed me, passed me by”.
Don’t let this record pass you by. Go out and buy it. Buy it now.