The Derek Trucks Band
Already Free

Release Date: January 13, 2009
Produced by: Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall III
Format: CD



Mark Squirek


What an incredible stew of world, blues, funk, boogie, soul, slide, rock, New Orleans and swamp. With so much happening, sometimes in the same song, it is impossible to pigeon hole this CD inside a single genre. And why should we want to? When music is made this well, the best bet is to just drop the needle and listen. The simplest way to sum up this release is Brothers and Sisters 2009. Like that classic Allman Brothers Band release from 1973, Already Free is about family, working together and the belief in the saving grace and the soul of music.

Derek Trucks picked up his first guitar at 9, and by age twelve Trucks had already played guitar with Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills and The Allman Brothers. Along the way he read voraciously and developed a philosophy of music that is featured inside the booklet for Already Free. The Derek Trucks Band formed two years before the gifted guitarist joined the Allman Brothers in 1999. The band had actually been alive in one form or another since he was 15.

Over the first six studio albums the band worked inside a world-jam format that served them well. Their songs expanded and contracted as the music seemed to lead them. This time out they have made an effort to work inside a more structured format. The new release harkens back to Derek and the Dominoes and especially the sounds of Eric Clapton’s self-titled 1970 solo album as well as  the early work of the late Delaney Bramlett. There is also a touch of Mad Dogs and Englishmen in some places.

Trucks toured with Clapton in 2006 playing classics from Clapton’s early catalog along side good portions of the Derek and the Dominoes first album, Layla. That may have more than something to do with the tightness of the songs on this release. Opening with a slow sustained gospel organ fill and the sound of a small group applauding as a tambourine shakes, Sweet Inspiration breaks into a guitar figure that could be an outtake from that first Clapton album. The vocals sneak up, the tambourine is up in the mix and you can almost see the sunlight coming through the windows as the choir is getting ready. Main vocalist Mike Mattison (the warmth in this man’s voice is honey) is joined by Susan Tedeschi and the song moves into a small rural church somewhere way outside of Memphis. As the band creates a world around them, Trucks drops in and out with perfect, clean fills that simultaneously hold a touch of dirt and sunshine. You are caught up in the fervor of the moment along with everyone else.

While there are other musical influences to be found in some of the songs, the band is a complete original. It is what they do with those influences that makes them so strong as a musical family. No one else could have possibly found everything they do inside the opening song, Bob Dylan’s Down in the Flood. The song rises from the swamp, shaded by hanging vines and fallen trees only to break through to daylight as the band brings all they have to bear in the service of Dylan’s lyrics. Written in 1967, Trucks and Band find notes of panic and frustration in the song as they bring it to a new life in aftermath of Katrina. Nothing is stated specifically, but you know it is there.

At times Trucks and his Band recall The Band (Maybe This Time with vocals by Doyle Bramhall). Sometimes they sound like a forgotten hit from 1974. Our Love would be a hit today if radio was still the same as it was thirty odd years ago. The acoustic guitars that open this song are beautiful. Once again Trucks drops in and out of the song placing the perfect fill at exactly the right moment. He never dominates, leading only by example. Bramhall takes lead vocals as drummer Yonrico Scott creates a gentle urgency inside the number with his snare work. He also contributes  back-up vocals (with Bramhall).

Regular vocalist Mattison steps back up for the mighty Days is Almost Gone. The horns sway and Mattison moves with them. Trucks adds color on top of the mix and before you know it you can almost see the audience arm in arm singing along.

The subtle mix of world music and sounds of the south can be found in Back Where I Started. Playing a sarod (a fretless string instrument from India) along side a traditional acoustic guitar, Trucks back Tedeschi’s lead vocals with a tenderness that never overtakes the tinge of regret she brings to the song. Every single note and emotion that the musicians play is in perfect balance. In an album filled with musical delights, both loud and soft, the quiet of this song stands out. 

If you are looking for the sound of Trucks’ regular gig, play I Know alongside the best of the Allman Brothers. This time out Trucks lets the Hammond B-3 work of Kofi Burbridge add the color and everyone follows until the guitar breaks into a joyous solo followed by horns that move the song to a higher level. This is going to be a monster in concert.

Writing in the booklet that accompanies the CD, John Snyder says that “To a man, this band embodies ‘The Seven Creative Virtues’ ”. The virtues are than briefly detailed. It is a telling insight into the musical and personal success that The Derek Trucks Band has found. By working together, with the good of the music front and center, they have created an album that will never stop moving the spirit and the body of those who choose to hear it. 

In addition to the vinyl and regular CD release, there is a limited release version from Best Buy that holds three additional songs.

From the inside of the Already Free digipack:

“Music is like a river or stream that has come down to us through time, bringing nurture to a man’s soul From the past masters, this music flowed to my father and through him to me. I want to keep this stream flowing. I don’t want it to die. It must be spread all over the world.”

-Ali Akbar Khan









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212 Frech

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