Referred to by Rolling Stone as “the best guitarist of his generation”, Derek Trucks has done quite a job making a name for himself. Between gigs with Buddy Guy, the Allman Brothers Band and his successful solo work, he’s had quite the celebrated career, which all started at the age of nine. At twenty-nine years of age, his sixth studio album, Already Free, is another release off of Legacy Recordings, and includes guest appearances by Doyle Bramhall II, Oteil Burbridge, Susan Tedeschi and Warren Haynes.
The opening track, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Down In The Flood”, is a funky groove with an R&B flavor, which continues throughout the album. Though Trucks is a jam musician by blood, with family ties to his uncle Butch, drummer of Allman Brothers Band fame, Already Free feels less stoner rock and more whiskey blues. The powerful lyrics and strong guitar keep the album upbeat, as heard on the opening riff of “Maybe This Time” or during the bridge of “Don’t Miss Me”. But what’s more, his guest appearances keep the tracks from blending together.
One of the strongest aspects of Already Free is the frequency of these guest appearances. Most notably, Susan Tedeschi pops in on multiple tracks, specifically “Back Where I Started”, bringing soul to Trucks’ rock. The two have been married since 2001, and often perform together as the Soul Stew Revival so they can continue to tour while also spending time with one another. In the studio, their chemistry is rich and bold, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given their history. It’s a fiery inclusion.
But is that surprising? Trucks fans have been taught to expect fire from him; he’s a slide guitar genius, and has merited his Rolling Stone title. Typically his albums accentuate that, and not just in the minor details, either. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Already Free. There are aspects of greatness, but as a whole, this album doesn’t bring it. The heavy country overtones and soft, soothing riffs aren’t what one of today’s best guitarists could be delivering, at his best.