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Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

Derek Trucks Band

Already Free (Victor)

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No one enters a song like Derek Trucks. Understated and refined, with his own band or as a guest, playing a cover or an original, from the very first note of slide riffage there is never a "who is that?" moment on a Trucks recording.

All the things that make the guitarist so distinct-that immaculate tone, Eastern tinge, precise frenzy and pure Empathy-are back on Already Free. And while 2006's Songlines wore its worldly influences on the sleeve, here down-home soul gets the nod, from the Basement Tapes Dylan cover of "Down in the Flood" and the Gospel-sparked "Sweet Inspiration" to a few more plaintive, back-porch moments.

Trucks' wife, Susan Tedeschi, drops by to guest on the lovely charmer "Back Where I Started," and along with the likes of "Our Love" and "I Know," there's almost too much contentment for a classic blues album. How can a guy with a seemingly perfect relationship feel the heart-bleed of a cut like "Days Is Almost Gone"? On the whole, however, there's enough sure-fire groove ("Something to Make You Happy"), hip detachment ("Down Don't Bother Me") and vigorously cathartic fretwork to keep everything as real as a Friday night rent party.

Consider the album highlight "Don't Miss Me," with its unrelenting funk, tricky tempo changes and indistinguishable number of guitar parts snaking in from both sides of your stereo, all kept chugging by some Tom Waits-esque effects. As good-timey and soulful as they come, it's a blissful, rocking rehash of the most perfect of blues sentiments.

Fans will swear by the necessity of seeing the band live, where Trucks is known for breathing new fire into standby classic rockers, but for the iPod-toting jam sect, Free is pleasantly indicative of that same energy.