"The great thing about having a studio right at home," guitarist Derek Trucks says with a grin, taking a break from mixing the new Derek Trucks Band album at Electric Lady Studios in New York, "is that if you need somebody to play or sing something on a track, you can just call 'em" — he mimes talking on a cell phone — and say, 'Get your ass over here.' "
It has been a busy commute. The record, titled Already Free and set for release by Columbia's Legacy Recordings in January 2009, was made at Trucks' new studio, behind his home in Jacksonville, Florida, and features songs Trucks wrote there with fellow Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes, and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, Trucks' bandmate in Eric Clapton's touring group over the last two years. Bramhall also sings and plays on the album. The Trucks-Haynes acoustic hymn "Back Where I Started" is a geniuine family affair: Trucks' wife, singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, is the featured vocalist, Trucks plays the Indian sarod in a striking Delta-blues bottleneck style and Trucks' brother Duane plays cardboard-box percussion.
At Electric Lady, Trucks previews several songs from the album, which bonds his greased-lightning slide guitar and encyclopedic loves of blues, R&B and Indian music in funky, cohesive songwriting. With its loping beat and rubbery clavinet, "Maybe This Time," sung by Bramhall, would have sounded right at home on Little Feat's 1973 album Dixie Chicken. "These Days Is Almost Gone," written by Trucks with his organist Kofi Burbridge and sung by DTB vocalist Mike Mattison, is a Sixties-vintage soul-stew ballad, with Trucks busting out on slide guitar at the end the way Duane Allman used to solo on R&B sessions for Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Mattison sings on a crunchy cover of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes song "Down in the Flood." And there is a version of Big Maybelle's "I Know" which opens with buzzing tamboura and slide guitar, then opens into a 6/8 country-jazz stride that sounds like the Allmans circa Brothers and Sisters.
Trucks says he had about two dozen songs going during the sessions, although some of those may end up on the next Allman Brothers studio album. Another track cut at home, "Butterfly," is on Tedeschi's new solo album, Back to the River, out in late October. "It's just the demo," Trucks says of the song. "But it turned out so good."
And if Already Free has a whiff of the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies about it, it's because of the historic console in Trucks' home studio. "I've got this great old Neve desk," he says, proudly, "that the Kinks had in their studio in London for 30 years."
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