Derek Trucks: A Legend In The Making (Relix Revisited, 1998)
After a month off the road, the Tedeschi Trucks Band returns to the stage tonight at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA (with George Porter Jr. on bass). We mark the occasion with this article from the April 1998 issue of Relix. The title seems prophetic, no?
Derek Trucks laughed as he listened to observations made about his band by people seeing it for the first time. He laughed with a combination of modesty and maturity, something musicians twice his age rarely do.
The Derek Trucks Band had opened for Gregg Allman & Friends weeks earlier, giving many their first glimpse of the 18-year-old guitar slinger. Some observations were, “First impression: a nice-looking kid. Long, blonde ponytail. You’d let him date your daughter.” Minutes later, during an epiphany of sorts: “Second Impression: The second coming of Johnny Winter!”
The idea of Trucks being in the same company as the legendary Winter amused and flattered Derek, the nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, but he shrugged off the comparison, as he is wont to do. He’s been hearing the hoopla for years, but Trucks’ skills on guitar are no laughing matter. His talent has even prompted Warren Haynes to predict, “If he’s not already the best slide player in the world, he soon will be.” Heady stuff, indeed, for a young man still years away from legally being able to buy a beer in one of the many bars where he has turned skeptics into converts since he was 11.
Relix caught up with Trucks during his second swing through Boston in three weeks, touring in support of his first CD effort, the self-titled The Derek Trucks Band (Landslide). This time around, he was set to pitch both ends of a double-header: both opening for and playing with Frogwings, an All-Star side project that includes his uncle and other members of the Allman Brothers Band and other Dixie-related musicians.
Commenting on fans’ initial expectations and reactions, Trucks admitted that people tend to classify his sound before hearing it yet are somewhat shocked when they do. “A lot of people come in and they either heard me when I was ten or eleven when I was [sitting in with] the Allman Brothers, expecting to hear that and maybe they’re a little bit turned off because it’s so different,” he said. “But I think the majority of the people like it better because it’s its own thing, though some people come expecting to hear the next spin-off of the Allman Brothers and, when it’s not there, they just turn away. That doesn’t bother me. We’re just laying it out and if you like it, great.”
What tends to grab a listener—listen for a few minutes and you quickly forget Trucks’ bloodline and understand that he’s charting his own course—is the broad musical background that he and his band bring to the table. Trucks’ knowledge of a wide variety of musical forms sets him head and shoulders above most of today’s working guitarists—of any age. Probably the most technically advanced of the teenage blues guitar sensations, Trucks’ contemporaries such as Kenny Wayne Sheppard and Monster Mike Welch seem one-dimensional when compared to him.
Trucks is a true student, a junkie, of music technique. He cites Sun Ra, Miles Davis and even Ali Akbar Khan as major musical influences, whereas most 18-year-olds have never even heard of these guys, let alone been inspired by them. The impact of jazz, blues and Eastern music comes through on Trucks’ CD and live performances. Quite simply, Trucks plays with a passion, a depth of soul, that belies his years.
Many ask of his accomplishments, “How’d the kid get so good?” The answer is by listening and learning. Trucks’ musical education started with his father’s Elmore James albums as a young boy and continues today. He submerses himself in recordings from the masters and gleans what he can from those around him. “What comes out has a lot to do with what you listen to and what you hear, more than practice itself,” he noted. “That’s important, but it’s just as important to spend time researching and listening to where it began.”
Spoken like a rock veteran.
“I think anything you can do, just being around or listening to musicians who are beyond you is definitely helpful,” he added. “I remember from being ten or eleven, and playing and hearing Warren and Oteil [Haynes and Burbridge of ABB fame] and Jimmy [Herring, guitarist of the Aquarium Rescue Unit], and it made you either want to quit or practice, they were so good. Usually you end up practicing.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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