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With 'Already Free,' Derek Trucks begins expanding his horizons

| Thursday, April 2, 2009

Up to now, guitarist Derek Trucks probably has been better known as a member of the Allman Brothers Band than as a band leader, despite the fact that the new Derek Trucks Band CD, "Already Free," is the group's sixth album.

But in talking with Trucks, the guitarist leaves little doubt about how important his band is to him and, perhaps more tellingly, how much he wants the group to leave a lasting stamp on the music world. Trucks and the band perform Sunday at the Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse.

"Already Free" stands apart from the other Derek Trucks Band albums for having a much larger percentage of songs written or co-written by Trucks or the other band members. This facet of the CD says a lot about how Trucks' interest in the music-making process has expanded, as has his larger goals for his band.

"It wasn't really until the last three or four years that I really started appreciating the art of writing songs," Trucks says. "Up to that point, most of what inspired and moved me were performances. I appreciated great songs, but what mattered to me more was Stevie Wonder singing on a great song that he wrote or Mahalia (Jackson) singing on a great gospel tune or (John) Coltrane playing. It was usually the performer and the tone and the sound that I got into. It was really only in the last three or four years that I was really struck by Leonard Cohen's songwriting or (Bob) Dylan's songwriting, not the performances, but the depth, the multilayered ideas and just the beauty of some of these lyrics and just the song structure."

Trucks also came to a related realization as his appreciation for songwriting grew.

"I'd definitely been thinking about the fact that, to make a band's legacy or a musician's legacy really last, I feel like there's got to be a healthy amount of original compositions to make it hold up," Trucks says. "There are great artists and legendary artists that didn't write a lot of tunes, but for the most part, the ones that changed things wrote a good deal of their stuff. It's something I was thinking about."

So Trucks -- one of the most humble artists one can encounter, despite his prodigious talent as a guitarist -- might have taken a major step toward making important music with "Already Free."

"Already Free" mixes elements of soul, jazz, world beat, country, blues and rock. But the new CD is edgier, and particularly on songs such as "Something to Make You Happy," "Get What You Deserve" and "Don't Miss Me," the group emphasizes the rock/blues/soul side of its sound more than on earlier albums.

Meanwhile, the high quality of the material, coupled with the fast growth Trucks has made with songwriting, suggests that "Already Free" might be the start of a fruitful phase for the band, which includes Trucks, bassist Todd Smallie, drummer Yonrico Scott, keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, singer Mike Mattison and percussionist Count M'Butu.

With "Already Free" having only arrived in stores in January, it is no surprise to hear Trucks say that the new CD figures to be a centerpiece of his group's shows this spring.

"We'll probably be playing a lot of those (new) tunes," he says.

Additional Information:

Derek Trucks Band

With : The Bridge

When : 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Admission : $39-$59

Where : Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse , Burgettstown

Details : 724-947-1900

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