No1ToRunWith - 11/12/2007 at 10:36 PM
Derek Trucks: Old soul with a young heart
He has seen much in the music world in his brief career
Staff music critic
(November 10, 2007) — Derek Trucks and his fellow guitarist Doyle Bramhall II had a summer night off in Verona, Italy, back in 2006, and figured it might be a cool idea for a couple of American rock and rollers to check out the performance of the Verdi opera Aida, playing there at the old coliseum — an ancient ruin of a venue, as old as Rome's Colosseum.
"Italy was playing in the World Cup finals, and in the first act they scored their first goal," Trucks says. "The sound from the street outside was so loud, it interrupted the singers. I said, 'This is cool, but I want to go out and see what's happening outside.'
"When they won, fireworks were going off; they were tossing women into 2,000-year-old fountains. It was borderline uncomfortable."
OK, so maybe celebrating sports victories with reckless abandon isn't Trucks' thing. Rest assured, his music is not so reserved.
This old soul has enjoyed many musical incarnations. For a few years now, most people have seen him teaming with Warren Haynes on the revived, twin-guitar attack of the Allman Brothers Band. He spent a part of the summer touring with Eric Clapton, a guy who hardly needs any help on the guitar. Sunday, the Derek Trucks Band plays at Water Street Music Hall in support of his best album yet, the world-beat blues Songlines.
We're calling the 28-year-old Trucks an old soul because he's earned the title. "The songline theory is walking a trail and singing a song of the trail, songs you hear before you're even born, when the mother first feels a kick in the womb," Trucks says. It's an Australian Aborigine concept, one explored by the late writer Bruce Chatwin in his book of the same name.
"It was a recommendation from a good friend," Trucks says. "I think he had a notion that it might make sense. Just the title of the book was what had first attracted me to it."
Chatwin's book "had some beautiful ideas in what we were trying to do with the record. It kind of tied everything together. You get to the same end from a lot of different directions."
On his own Songlines, that's clear from the opening track, jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery."
"I thought it was a good introduction to the record," Trucks says. "It's across the board musically. It doesn't quite say what it is. Blues, percussion world based, jazz. It's slightly confused.
"Most honest music is."
Regular guy? Sure. The first time Eric Clapton left a phone message for him, Trucks played the tape for 20 poker-playing buddies, including his dad. Wouldn't you? No, Trucks is not above baser entertainments. The literary Western bloodbaths of Cormac McCarthy, or what Trucks calls "extreme fishing, 60 miles off the coast of Jacksonville. If your boat breaks down, you're kinda screwed."
And yeah, he's been screwed. But mostly, Trucks has lived a charmed life, and he concedes it. He was a teen-guitar prodigy whose uncle, Butch Trucks, was the original drummer for the Allmans, and remains so to this day. So that was a pretty good in for the kid. Moving in those circles, he finds himself married to another pretty good guitarist, Susan Tedeschi. They have two kids together, ages 5 and 3, which grounds him in the idea of "not responsible for just yourself anymore."
Songlines hints of a musician of varied interests. Trucks concedes there are probably "2,000 discs on our stereo. Glenn Gould, hundreds of classical, Indian music, Howlin' Wolf, Bulgarian."
Perhaps it was the eccentric Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.) who fired his curiosity. Hampton is an Atlanta legend — lying somewhere between James Brown and Frank Zappa — who young Trucks couldn't avoid as he moved about those Southern music circles.
"When I was 14, 15, he started hitting me with crazy books and crazy records," Trucks recalls. "Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Sun Ra, Son House. He always had the right book or music for the time." At age 15, Hampton gave Trucks a book by spiritual philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti and a copy of A Love Supreme, just one set of "random things that you don't always see the connection to."
Perhaps that's why Trucks shifts gears so easily between the Allmans' blues-based Southern rock, Clapton's Derek & the Dominos songs and his own worldly explorations.
"Doing what we do, there is a certain amount of confidence we have to have to continue to do it 100, 200 days a year," he says. "An unspoken thing, you trust in any given situation, and with the knowledge that you can weave your way through it.
"You're happiest doing what you're supposed to be doing."
Trucks was virtually born with a guitar in hand and does not suggest that's too much of a good thing. But maybe too much of a good thing too fast.
"A lot of my musical idols — Duane Allman, Charlie Christian, Clifford Brown — a lot of those guys are gone. Maybe it's a matter if timing and circumstance for them, but I have to be willing to accept whether I can wait for things to unfold.
"You look at the arc of those guys' lives, I don't think they knew they were going to die at 24. Look at how fast they developed. Even Hendrix, his body of work was almost done before he was 30."
Allman was 24; electric-guitar innovator Christian and jazz trumpeter Brown, 25; Hendrix, 27. Trucks, at 28, is thinking hard about old-soul ideas like mortality.
"A few guys have been able to keep it rolling, had that forward motion for a whole eight, 10 years," he says. "The slow build is the way to go, even though the last few years have been a pretty good build for me. But overnight, I've seen a ton of guys who were playing clubs and all of a sudden they're opening for Clapton. And two years later, they're in rehab. I much prefer having to work at it and claw your way up."
adwolfpack44 - 11/12/2007 at 10:45 PM
Derek (like Duane) never ceases to amaze me at how wise he can be
And how down-to-earth...loved the part about extreme fishing!
susea - 11/13/2007 at 12:15 AM
Regular guy? Sure. The first time Eric Clapton left a phone message for him, Trucks played the tape for 20 poker-playing buddies, including his dad. Wouldn't you?
Y E S
No1ToRunWith - 11/13/2007 at 05:10 PM
lolasdeb - 11/13/2007 at 10:53 PM
Another great article, Eric! Thanks!
Peachfan8 - 11/13/2007 at 11:14 PM
I love that picture of Derek! It shows so much emotion!
No1ToRunWith - 11/13/2007 at 11:17 PM
That was from Jam Cruise
here is another one
Peachfan8 - 11/14/2007 at 01:28 AM
Sweet pics man!
44Blues - 11/14/2007 at 01:06 PM
Thanks for that post! great article and photos!