Sound — 8
Every so often there's a musical prodigy that comes along, and people sit back and wait to see if innate talent will translate into a lucrative career. For Derek Trucks, who at an early age was sitting in with such artists like Buddy Guy and The Allman Brothers Band, it does seem that the future will be kind. The guitarist has been involved with multiple collaborations over the past decade or so, but his latest CD release comes from his own personal project, the Derek Trucks Band. Already Free, the 6th studio album from the band, is another incredible effort on Trucks part, showing off his amazing ability at the slide more than ever. While the album might feel slightly like watered-down blues in parts, it still is an impressive piece of work. Within the liner notes of Already Free, Trucks emphasizes that the new record was all about family and friends. Indeed, he was surrounded by musicians with personal ties (including his wife Susan Tedeschi), and the CD was recorded in Trucks' own home studio. The chemistry within the group is undeniable, and top-notch musicians like vocalist Mike Mattison, guitarist/vocalist Doyle Bramhall II, and gritty guitarist/vocalist Tedeschi keep the record steady throughout. The Derek Trucks Band is at its best when it does allow a more historical blues sound to enter into the picture. Both the first and last songs provide the biggest taste of the Delta Blues, and not coincidently, they're also the best tracks on the album. The Bob Dylan cover "Down in the Flood" delivers not only that earthy quality, but it also integrates a more distorted, rock-oriented vibe in some sections, making it one of the more dynamic tracks. "Already Free" remains true to the Delta sound and easy-going tempo, never attempting to add in unnecessary synth or overproduction. Elsewhere, Tedeschi is easily the most engaging guest vocalist on the album on "Back Where I Started," and her Bonnie Raitt-like delivery makes a big impression. Trucks is the main attraction without a doubt, and Already Free is jam-packed with some juicy solos - played in traditional lead style and with a slide. The slide is where Trucks truly shines, and songs like "Down Don't Bother Me" and "Day Is Almost Gone" are standouts. The guitarist also performs with a (a stringed instrument often used in Indian music), and although it doesn't necessarily jump out like a sitar, it still adds interesting layers to the mix.
Lyrics — 8
In terms of lyrics, the themes usually stick to what you might hear on a lot of other blues albums. But for people who are fans of that genre (and this reviewer is one of them), that shouldn't be a huge obstacle in listening to the record. A song like "Our Love" provides a nice glimpse of what you'll hear on the rest of the album with lyrics such as, "I know, know what it's like on my own; Things have been wrong but I don't want to be alone; Sometimes time ain't always on our side." These are classic themes, and even though they're not unique, they're quite suitable for Trucks' blend of music.
Overall Impression — 8
It's hard to not be impressed by everything that Trucks has accomplished since the age of 9. You will definitely hear some evidence of his days with The Allman Brothers Band, although Already Free definitely lacks the gritty feel heard on some early Allman songs. Even so, the musicianship is consistent throughout, and if you're someone who is always on the lookout for innovative slide players, Derek Trucks is your man.