Sound — 9
This time around, the Derek Trucks Band seems to get back to a more blues-oriented sound which eschews many (but not all) of the world music touches on Songlines. This return to roots helps make Already Free their strongest album yet. Predictably, the stand out tracks are the most blues oriented ones--"Down In The Flood," "Get What You Deserve," "Don't Miss Me" and "Already Free." The band meshes best on these tracks, with Truck's guitar being the glue that binds it together. These tracks showcase the remarkable potential and collective chops of the band, and there are enough of these blues-oriented songs to keep the album exciting. However, the band doesn't saturate the album with blues cliches which keeps the material fresh. Some bands thrive off a rotating cast of musicians (like Australia's The Cat Empire or some of Clapton's albums), but the Derek Trucks Band is not one of these. The songs featuring Doyle Bramhall II (including the somewhat insipid "Maybe this Time") are some of the weaker ones on the disc; but even then are still worth a listen, maybe just not a repeat. Susan Tedeschi, however, makes some more worthwhile contributions, with her voice serving as a great counterpoint to vocalist Mike Mattison's gravely rumble.
Lyrics — 8
There has been some criticism levied at Mike Mattison's lyrics, and these are probably the weakest part of the album. Here is the only time when they fall into blues cliches, such as the line "I've got a toothpick in the soul of my walking shoes." Occasionally, allusions like this work, but this one is destroyed by the ridiculous image of a toothpick stuck in the bottom of a shoe. Additionally, the forced grammatical inaccuracy of the title and chorus of "Days Is Almost Gone" is almost cringe-worthy. Although the lyrics make many missteps, there are also some real lyrical gems here. Songs like "Already Free" successfully pull of the modern interpretation of classic blues themes, without a single forced grammar mistake. Most of the lyrics on the album are really fairly satisfactory, though not exemplary. Songs like "Already Free" do represent a step in the right direction though.
Overall Impression — 9
As mentioned above, this is (in the reviewer's opinion) the strongest album by the band yet. The main factor in this is the embracing of the blues, something which the band has only toyed with on previous albums. With what they learned about world music on Songlines, the band has crafted a unique approach to the blues that feels unique but not artificial. They occasionally fall into cliches, but even the best bands are prone to this. The standout tracks are simply excellent, the rest vary from good to above average. The band sounds great, and the interplay between Truck's guitar and Mattison's vocals is great. Neither, however hog the spotlight, and the impression is less "Derek Truck's Band" than it is "The Derek Trucks Band" (I.e. a band that just happens to have Derek in it). I would recommend this album as a great primer to the band, or as a must have for any fan. These guys also put on a great live show, with that being a little more blues oriented than their albums (although I did witness a killer eight minute jam on "Greensleeves")