In making their current album, Songlines, the Derek Trucks Band not only came up with arguably their finest work to date, but the group-and prodigal guitarist Derek Trucks himself-got a whole new outlook on the creative process.
'It was the best I've felt about any studio experience, and it really changed the way I thought about making records in the future,' Trucks says.
Recording Songlines taught him that the studio should be a laboratory for experimenting with sonics, overdubbing and recording technology. There's also no reason a studio version of a song can't evolve while it's being recorded and offer something different than its live rendition.
'We play so much and we record our shows live [enough] that that side of the band is captured and documented,' Trucks explains. 'When we go in the studio... we try to make albums, make records. The records that I come back to and listen to after years and years-whether it's a great early Stevie Wonder record or some of those great Hendrix records-there's just so much going on, just so many layers, that the more you listen to it, you find new things all the time.'
This spirit of discovery comes better late than never. After all, Trucks is no stranger to the studio.
Trucks, who also plays guitar in the Allman Brothers Band and is the nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, formed his band a decade ago when he was just 16. By that time, he'd already been playing professionally for five years, and his reputation as a kick-ass guitarist was growing. The Derek Trucks Band dropped their eponymous debut in 1996.
At 27, Trucks is considered one of the finest young guitarists in any genre. He unreels several impressive solos on Songlines, be it the slide work on the Eastern-tinged version of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's 'Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni,' the acoustic playing on the Taj Mahal song 'Chevrolet' or the electric fills on the band-written 'All I Do.'
'Bands [often] kind of tense up, or you get in the studio and it becomes a little too precious,' he said. 'You kind of treat everything a little too systematically, and you dissect it in a way where it's a little too sterile rather than just going in and trying to find good sounds and just playing and experimenting. Just maybe taking it a little less seriously, you get a little more out of it sometimes.'
The band's growth has translated to live shows, where Trucks said they've reached a new level. Their show at Chicago's Park West in January 2006 was recently released on the DVD Songlines Live.
'It's the most complete it's ever felt, for sure,' Trucks says. 'It's exciting times. We've been together for 12 years, somewhere in there. There are a lot of peaks and valleys, a lot of times where, you know, we play so much, you're bound to hit a few walls musically here and there. But I really feel this is one of those times when it's really on the move again.'
For the current tour, Trucks and his band are doing something entirely different. They'll be joined by Trucks' wife-Susan Tedeschi, a four-time Grammy-nominated singer, guitarist and songwriter-for 'The Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival.'
The 'Soul Stew' will also include Trucks' younger brother, 18-year-old Duane Trucks, on a second drum kit. The kid's in for a treat; he'll do his first national tour before graduating high school.
But with his kin-including Uncle Butch and sister-in-law Sue-he shouldn't be too surprised to find himself on stage with family in front of a few thousand people.
Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi play at 4th & B on June 13. Doors open at 7 p.m. $45. 619-231-4343.
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