The eponymous debut album of The Derek Trucks Band was released on October 7th, 1997, mere months after the group’s namesake reached his 18th birthday. Nephew of Allman Brothers Band co-founder and drummer Butch Trucks, Derek purchased his first guitar at age nine, with a slide following hot on its heels. Influenced greatly by such blues guitar-slingers as Elmore James, Buddy Guy and Duane Allman, the young prodigy was also drawn to jazz masters like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker as he developed his style. Trucks had his first taste of professional musicianship before he even hit his teens, and began to piece together The Derek Trucks Band in 1994. The guitarist assembled bassist Todd Smalie, drummer Yonrico Scott, and keyboardist Bill McKay to forge style that blended music from all over the wolrd, including blues, Eastern Indian, jazz, Latin, and rock.
The Derek Trucks Band sees the quartet bring together these various influences and each musician’s readily apparent talents to create an endearing foray of jazz-rock fusion. The debut also drips with a bluesy twang, tasty funky flourishes, and hints of Southern rock, all flowing with an undercurrent of jam, a la the Allman Brothers or the jazz greats of old. On the topic of jazz royalty, a handful of classic numbers are brought into fold as works by Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, and Miles Davis are beautifully interpreted as Trucks’ impressive slide work assuredly steps in to take the place of saxophonists and trumpeter, respectively. The group also flexes their mighty, musical muscles throughout the album with original songs like “D Minor Blues,” whose slow burning blues focus erupts throughout with beautiful ferocity, the jazzed-up, Southern rock gem “Out of Madness” that would have fit in perfectly during the Allman Brothers Fillmore days, and the only track to include vocals of any kind, “555 Lake.” The latter track, sung by McKay, also spotlights the keyboardist’s topnotch organ chops and finds band at their funkiest, with guesting trumpet of Gary Gazaway adding quite the cherry on top. Overall, The Derek Trucks Band is a fantastic debut, one that shows a love of music and the commendable musicianship of those involved to back it up in this stew of blues, jazz, and rock.With his promising debut, Trucks began the journey which would see him become one of the most iconic artists of the contemporary blues scene. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a musician of his caliber.
– Keeping the Blues Alive