Lately, I get the distinct impression that all musicians are trapped
in the '70s. And, Songlines, the latest CD by The Derek
Trucks Band, has done nothing to disabuse me of this notion. Yes,
it is true that Trucks is the nephew of the Allman Brothers'
Butch Trucks. Yes, he plays guitar and fronts a blues band.
Yes, the vocals on that band's records even sound a bit like Gregg
Allman at times. And, there are certainly a few blues-tinged songs
that would not sound out of place on an Allmans album. But, Songlines
is more than that, really. It is an album grounded not in blues-rock,
but in jazz, soul, and country. Certainly, Trucks' guitar work is
that of a blues afficionado, but with the exception of a few songs,
Songlines has the feel and musical breadth of a pop album.
In fact, a majority of the songs on Songlines fall into the
pop-blues category. "I'll Find My Way" is a prototypical
song of lost love driven by Trucks' rollicking guitar and producer
Jay Joyce's soulful organ, while "Sailing On" and "Revolution"
are at once anthemic and mellow, idealistic and personal. "The
Sky" is even a straight pop tune with the only Trucks' guitar
adding a bluesy tone. There are other musical influences on Songlines
- ranging from the sitar-inspired blues of "Sabib Teri Bandi/Maki
Madni" to the delta blues of "Crow Jane" and "Chevrolet."
"I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled, and Crazy" even features
jazzy percussion and keyboards and a '70s soul vibe, while the cover
of "I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)" (made
famous by the incomparable Nina Simone) has a gospel feel.
And, the album's opener, "Volunteered Slavery," is an African
drum- and African-American spiritual-inspired vignette. Strangely,
none of these changes interrupts the album's flow - perhaps because
each song is connected by a guitar interlude that feeds into the next
track, making the album appear a seamless whole.
Trucks' blues riffs are central to the album, tying together musically
an album that is heterogeneous in its musicality. Lyrics are secondary
to the music and musicianship for Trucks and company. At times, the
lyrics on Songlines become oversimplistic, overly idealistic,
or mired in cliche. But, the music is enjoyable nonetheless. And,
that is truly the draw of Songlines - the melding of pop melodies
with blues guitars to produce an album that is a joyful listening
-Tracy M. Rogers
1. Volunteered Slavery
2. I'll Find My Way
3. Crow Jane
4. Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Mandi
6. Sailing On
8. I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled, and Crazy
9. All I Do
11. I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)
12. This Sky
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