Derek Trucks Band
New Daisy Theatre
February 21, 2009
If there's one thing that Derek Trucks can do, it's play guitar. After his return engagement in Memphis, that much is abundantly crystal clear. It had been about five and a half years since he and the Derek Trucks Band had played Memphis – the 45-minute set at Beale Street Music Festival just doesn't count. But, after blowing the doors and ceiling off the New Daisy Theatre, the absence has been forgiven.
With January release Already Free in the can and on shelves, it was a given that the band would be putting new material on display, and they did so right off the bat, getting the crowd rowdy with "Get What You Deserve," following it up with "Down Don't Bother Me," a great track that's been in the catalogue for quite a while and finally made it onto a studio album. Vocalist Mike Mattison killed it on this song, showing (yet again) why he's underrated. His gruff voice oozes soul, and even with a bum leg (he sang the whole show perched on a stool, right leg in a cast.)
All told they played over half the new disc. Especially great was the title track – many albums include songs that work in the studio but rarely, if ever, get performed on stage in a live setting (Allman Brothers' "Little Martha," for example.) "Already Free," a soft, touching stand-out track that closes out the album, could have been one such song, so it's great to see it already breaking into setlists. Mattison and his voice owned this one live just as he did on the album.
Once the band got the obligatory album promotion out of the way (six of the first seven songs played were album tracks), the band really got down to business with a cover of Lee Dorsey's "Get Out My Life Woman," soul/funk nugget that allowed the whole band really stretch its legs for the first time.
Curtis Mayfield's "We're A Winner" was another show-off track for Mattison. There aren't many guys with Mattison's range, and this song really showed his ability to hit the high notes.
The band's take on "My Favorite Things" was the highlight of the night. Mattison left the stage, leaving it in the hands of the instrumentalists. The Derek Trucks Band may be known for its namesake, but the rest of the band is by no means an afterthought. Kofi Burbridge's B3 work is top-notch, and not enough can be said about his flute playing. Yonrico Scott's drumming is powerful when it needs to be, colorful when called for, and always on the beat. When the band turns to jazz, like they did on this tune, they really show their versatility as a unit.
And, the captain of that team is Derek Trucks (six paragraphs in and his first mention, which speaks volumes about the band). Frankly, the guy's a savant. When he picks up a guitar, he commands the whole room because you can't help but stop what you're doing and listen. He completely owns the instrument in a way that very few, if anyone does.
About twelve minutes into "My Favorite Things," as the jam got spacey, Trucks took his low E string, loosened it enough that he could yank the damn thing back towards his stomach, and played it behind the neck of the guitar, making sounds like the teacher from Peanuts. Then, just like that, he tightened and re-tuned and went about his business. It's that kind of mastery of your craft that frankly makes the rest of us not want to pick up our own guitars. It's pure, unadulterated natural ability – stuff like that just really can't be taught.
The set closed with standard-issue Derek Trucks Band cover tunes: Taj Mahal's "Leavin' Trunk" and Derek & The Dominos' "Anyday," and with that, the band left the stage. They returned to the stage for a great version of "Sweet Inspiration" and another Mayfield tune, "Freddie's Dead."
Mike Mattison, again, ruled on vocals. Seriously, when will this guy get the credit he justly deserves? Bassist Todd Smallie finally got his time in the spotlight, with a thumping bass solo. It says a lot about a band when a guy as bad-assed on his instrument as Smallie is doesn't get a chance to show his chops until the final song of the night.
But, the Derek Trucks Band isn't about showing off. It's about the music, and it always has been. Even though the band is named for the transcendent guitarist, he never speaks outside of introducing the band. Nope, Derek and his band let their music do the talking. And, in Memphis, that music spoke LOUD.
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Written by / photos by Josh Mintz
Derek Trucks Band
February 12, 2009
Arriving at Cincinnati, Ohio's legendary music club, Bogarts, with a new album, Already Free, the Derek Trucks Band delivered a mind bending, swamp rock trip on February 12. Beginning the proceedings with the rave up, "Get What You Deserve," from Already Free, the DTB rolled steadily along with bandleader Trucks' riveting slide workouts and Mike Mattison's smooth, soulful lead vocal phrasings.
Continuing along the same line, "Down Don't Bother Me" featured an insight into one of music's best rhythm combos, the trio of Todd Smallie on bass, Yonrico Scott on drums and Count M'Butu on percussion. "Down Don't Bother Me" had the Allman Bros. fans on the floor bobbing their heads in time to the beat. The composition is a distinctive cross between the Allmans' greasy southern blues and Derek Trucks' uniquely transcending, world pop music bursts on bottleneck slide guitar.
Delving into his inner Jeff Beck, Trucks elevated the DTB's organic vibrations, walking across the stage to urge more fluent improvisations from each member on "Greensleeves." The double gut punch of Already Free's title track sandwiched alongside the opening number on the project, "Down in the Flood," had the balcony twirlers circling throughout the storied facility as the warm ambience inside Bogarts increased with each successive jam.
The DTB offered up a sizzling run through on "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled & Crazy" that featured a smoky keyboard solo from organ master Kofi Burbridge. Linking the Cincinnati show to the upcoming Allman Bros. month of concerts at the Beacon Theater in New York, the group pounded the revitalized blues number that made it onto the Derek and the Dominoes recording, Layla, "Key to the Highway."
Trucks has proved to be the ultimate focal point of any ceremony he attaches himself to, and his razor sharp slide treatments on "Don't Miss Me" had Bogarts' denizens hollering for more. As the ensemble left the stage to a deafening ovation, Trucks waved to the crowd with a smile, exhibiting a rare moment of emotion. Hobbling back on crutches, Mattison sat on the chair at the lip of the stage and belted "Get Out of My Life, Woman" as the DTB surrounded him with a truncated rhythm and blues strut. Derek Trucks gave the faithful what they came for on the last encore, "Soul Serenade," before leaving the Bogarts spotlight to hit the road that never ends on the Already Free World Tour.
Written by Bill Whiting / photos (taken from Memphis show) by Josh Mintz