Music

The Derek Trucks Band: Songlines

A young phenom no more, D Trucks straddles genres with one authoritative guitar.


The Derek Trucks Band

Songlines

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2006-02-21
UK Release Date: 2006-05-22
Amazon
iTunes

"I hate most jazz guitarists," a friend of mine says, "because they all sound too cool for their own good -- the treble turned way down and their amps clean as a whistle as if they were afraid to really play the blues." Amazingly true. For an antidote, there are only a handful of mainstream jazz players who occasionally bust loose.

And, increasingly, there is Derek Trucks... who, while not really a "jazz" player at all, may just satisfy your craving for smart, sweet runs and earthy explosion.

Mr. Trucks started his career as that tired cliché: the young guitar phenom. The nephew of Allman Brothers founding drummer, Butch Trucks, Derek has long been channeling Duane Allman and a certain kind of open-ended southern jam approach to the fret-board. But his first album -- an eponymous effort on a small label -- was an instrumental set covering the likes of Miles, Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter. And while his career since then (including playing with, who else?, the Allmans) has hewed back toward the blues-rock jamming that is his heritage, there remains a pure-player excitement about his honest, astonishing solos. Derek Trucks -- slide guitar in hand -- is a more exciting and authentic "jazz" guitarists than most of the cats who actually go by that label.

The gem in the discography of The Derek Trucks Band is surely Live at Georgia Theatre, a two-disc explosion of brilliant, soulful (live) playing. It's the glorious compromise between the band's tendency toward jazz and world music and its blues 'n' roots-meets-southern rock base. Live, however, has had limited distribution. And so arrives Songlines, which resembles Live's reach and tone without actually being "live". It may be the next best thing to being there.

It says something that Songlines starts with one of Mr. Trucks' most unusual favorites, an abbreviated version of "Volunteered Slavery", a tune by the blind and ingenious jazz reedman Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The Live version is expansive, but here the tune serves as a quick introduction to "I'll Find My Way", a mid-tempo soul tune featuring the DT Band's new-ish vocalist, Mike Mattison. Mr. Trucks, if you don't already know, is the band's star as its guitarist but -- Carlos Santana-like -- he hands off the lead vocal chores to bandmates. Indeed, the Santana comparison extends to the whole band concept -- driven by percussion and organ as much as guitar, this is a band that mines both blues and international flavors in forging a distinct hybrid identity. Like Santana's '70s bands, the DT Band courts a loose-limbed feeling. Just as "Volunteered Slavery" segues easily into "I'll Find My Way", the latter tune folds into the old tune "Crow Jane" featuring a pinched falsetto vocal over a funky/Latin blues groove. Mr. Trucks slide guitar solo here is barely eight bars but killer. And so the Santana comparison also runs afoul -- as Mr. Trucks plays more melodically and with infinitely more blues feeling than Mr. Santana. Despite his Allman roots, Mr. Trucks seems less like a jammy guitarist than like a guitarist capable -- but not reliant on -- building melodic ideas atop each other.

"Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni" is a live favorite with a serpentine Indian-sounding line for guitar, organ and flute in unison. Kofi Burbridge's flute is tasty, but the gut-wrenching slide solo over a slow pedal point has you screaming "Uncle!" Sure, compared to the Live version, this one seems unnecessarily tame, but such is the fate of the studio versions of live favorites. The studio sound is kinder to the blues and soul work. For example, "Chevrolet", with Mr. Trucks' dobro as sloppy and glorious as you could want it, has real Delta grit and energy, and "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled, and Crazy" plays as a relaxed Neville Brothers groove filtered through Motown. Similarly, "Sail On" has an easygoing funk that doesn't seem pale even though it is thoroughly studio-processed. Both tunes have the charm of good arrangements (some sneaky clavinet, some tasty, ear-candy background vocals) and features Trucks-a-rific solos that snap at the chords and get gritty enough to balance out the slickness.

Maybe the best two tunes are the most hard-driving and the most reflective. "Revolution" (written by Jay Joyce, the producer here) starts like a blues then surges into a rocking anthem of a chorus. When Mr, Trucks plays between the choruses, the band seems as big as all of E Street but with a hundred times more Delta credibility. "This Sky" has a lovely guitar introduction then glides into an uncharacteristically breezy melody, pushed along by irresistible snare-clicks and a flute counter-melody. It the not the kind of tune that the Derek Trucks Band is ever going to be famous for, but it signals plainly enough why it is a great band. Led by a firebrand blues-rock player and chopsmith, this is a band with artistic ambitions well beyond simply giving DT a place to show off his licks.

It would seem to be time for Derek Trucks -- signed to a huge label and (along with his wife, guitarist and singer Susan Tedeschi) the subject of recent articles in national publications -- to break out. He's not merely a blues guy, and his jazz-level appeal is not capped by long solos or lyric-less flights of virtuosity. Plus he's leading a true band -- one that plays together with superior unity and drive.

How about it... a band led by a non-singing guitar-slinger with "impeccable taste" that never leads to noodling or fake-jazz pleasantries. Is it possible? Songlines says it is.

The Derek Trucks Band - Sleepwalk [Live in 1995]

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.