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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Derek Trucks, Songlines: The Song Meets the Jam in Blissful Harmony.
Thursday, February 23, 2006

I posted this review of Little Brother's new record at Amazon; be a pal and toss me a favorable vote there.


Derek Trucks is one of the two or three most distinct and recognizable instrumental voices in popular music today. He's like Carlos Santana, in that he can toss in a 2-note lick and instantly you know its him.

This record is truly a "band" record. That might disappoint some, who were hoping to hear the songs as vehicles for Derek's extended shredding. Instead, the song is king, and Trucks uses his Jedi guitar is the service of the song.

Using Santana as a reference point, that makes this record more like Supernatural than Borboletta. Its easy to listen to, easy for the casual fan to get his or her ear around. "Revolution," for example, is as close to a radio-friendly single as Trucks has ever come. Yet the record is steeped in spirituality, in the healing power of music, and ulitimately the distinctions between the song and the jam seem to melt away into the sea of musical redemption.

The percussive work of Count M'Butu, enmeshed with drummer Yonrico Scott, gives the whole record a unified feel, a sort of World Music, African shimmy that ties together the middle-eastern-flavored numbers (the extended set piece, "Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni"), the straight blues ("Crow Jane"), the R'n'B ("I Wish I Knew"), and the rockers ("Revolution.") The music hops genres, but the essential underpinning-- what the Aborigines thought of as "the labarynth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia"-- is the deep network of "Songlines" that tie all the music together and lead to the heart. Trucks and company weave a magical web that revels in the interconnectedness of all things by embracing different musical forms and faces, connected at the root by these ancient, mystical songlines.

"Volunteer Slavery" serves as an incantation, a welcome into the record, flipping over into "I'll Find My Way;" here, vocalist Mike Mattison makes his entrance and establishes himself as a player to be reckoned with; Derek lays down his first significant solo about 4 minutes into the record, and its a quick hit-and-run. "Crow Jane," a jaunty 8-bar blues (a la "Key to the Highway"), starts as a bluesy call-and response between Derek's guitar and Mattison's vocals before the band kicks in.

"Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni" is a segueing of two concert staples, 10 minutes of middle eastern vibe where Kofi Burbridge's flute steps to the fore to add color and texture. Derek takes several extended jaunts, and this is probably the piece on the album that most evokes the feel of the band's live performances.

"Chevrolet" is another blues, the rich percolation still present undrneath; "Sailing On" is a sweet melody that will bring a smile to your face; Mattison sings the hell out of it, Derek lays on the fire and ice. "Revolution" wants to be a million-selling duet with Santana; "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy" is a percolating, funk of a shuffle, with bassist Todd Smalle laying down the groove, Derek's dobro slapping out twang over the top.

On "All I Do," the album begins its home stretch. "All I Do" is funked-up blue-eyed soul with a touch of church, and some of Derek's most inventive, jazzy playing on the record. "Mahjoun" is an instrumental track that harkens back to the opener, while charting a course for the two closing numbers, further on up the songline. "I Wish I Knew" is a soulful, joyous rave-up, almost gospel; Derek spatters a rainbow of joy across the sky on the outro.

The entrance of the closing "This Sky" is almost sacred, riding in the pocket where blues, jazz, soul, funk, and gospel flow together to become music of the heart. Derek's sublime play-out at the end puts the record to bed, Burbridge's flute providing a serene cushion, Mattison singing "Fly, fly away" in wistful tones as Derek's guitar does just that, gently ascending to the heavens. At this point, you might be tempted to hit "play" again.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:19 AM  

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