Guitarist Derek Trucks is best known as a prodigy, a blues boy who first performed at age 9, had a band by age 12 and a national recording contract while still in high school.
Now in his 20s, his reputation as a premiere guitarist remains, but he's also developed into a musician who defies labeling, as evidenced in the Derek Trucks Band's new CD, Soul Serenade.
Recorded in late 1999 and early 2000 but held up from release by contract complications, the CD is a compelling, Southern-fried melding of jazz, gospel, blues, rock and a bit of the Far East. It's reminiscent at times of Mr. Truck's uncle Butch Truck's old band, the Allman Brothers, and the Allman offspring, Sea Level.
This is a tight, versatile ensemble, with Mr. Trucks, bassist Todd Smallie, percussionist Yonrico Scott, keyboardist Bill McKay and Kafi Burbridge on flute and keyboards.
Mr. Trucks employs a sparse phrasing in his slide guitar work that mimics the human voice. It subtly dominates much of the disc, but each of his bandmates ably weave and bob their way around his guitar and are given space to shine on their own in the many jams.
The opening track, a take on King Curtis' Soul Serenade and Rasta Man Chant, sets the tone, with some languid guitars and instrumental doodlings in a 10-plus minute track that builds into a series of powerful, driving jams that are never overlong.
Mr. Burbridge is showcased on Afro Blue, turning in some marvelous flute work that segues into some fierce guitar work from Mr. Trucks.
Jazz flavors predominate, but this is a group that burns through the barroom blues on the only track with vocals, Drown in My Own Tears, with some imposing vocal help from Gregg Allman.
|THE DERECK TRUCKS BAND|
The only drawback to this release is its brevity. With only seven tracks and no more than 44 minutes of music, it's a throwback to the age of vinyl.
But there's not a wasted track on the CD, a rarity in an age when bands put out an hour-long CD that has only two or three worthy songs and a bunch of filler.
And this is a band with some serious pretensions. There's a quote on the liner notes that contends music has a universal appeal that touches people beyond language. As the title suggests, these guys are trying to communicate with the listener's soul. Give this album a listen or two and you may find that they succeed.
Reach Tharon Giddens at (706) 823-3347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.