The Derek Trucks Band: Already Free

Music •••• Sound ••••
Guitarist Derek Trucks has long felt suffocated by his Southern heritage and prodigious lineage - and of course, by all the comparisons to Duane Allman. A child prodigy, he first played in his Uncle Butch's outfit at age 11, and he began fronting his own band at 12. Following a time when he was lulled to sleep by At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach, Trucks spent the next decade running from his roots, exploring some of the most arcane and idiosyncratic sounds - from avant-garde jazz to Qawwali and Qur'anic sacred recitation - rather than trying to find his place in the Southern Rock canon.

Finally, on his sixth studio album, he has reconciled with his past and returned to the blues with a vengeance, eschewing the cocktail strains and world music of previous albums. If you don't believe me, listen to what he has done to Bob Dylan's topical and tragic Basement Tapes song "Down in the Flood," adding a free-falling slide that mourns the mounting waters - lyrical, liquid, metaphoric. Singer Mike Mattison's grizzled, cautionary delivery is a revelation, unsettling and anxious, staying with you long after the music fades.

Equally stunning is Derek's duet with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, on the wistful "Back Where I Started." And the brooding, bothersome "Down Don't Bother Me" could easily have been lifted off Idlewild South or Exile on Main St.