Already Free was written and recorded at Trucks' home studio in Jacksonville, Florida. Instead of a planned album with a succession of connected songs this release sounds organic and spontaneous, like a group of very talented friends getting together and doing what comes naturally. The atmosphere is relaxed and the performances unrushed, not surprising considering how long these guys have been playing together. Derek Trucks is one of those rare artists who forge lasting relationships with other musicians. Together they create a musical language that needs no translation. Percussionists Yonrico Scott and Count M’Butu, bassist Todd Smalie and mulit-instrumentalist Kofi Burbridge began playing with Trucks when the prodigy was still an adolescent. Other players have worked with Trucks in tour bands; Doyle Bramhall II worked with him on a Clapton tour while Warren Haynes traveled with him on Allman Brothers tours. Vocalist Mike Mattison has been The Derek Trucks Band’s lead singer since 2002 and he continues to mature, mastering his raspy instrument with the added element of nuance. Of course, Trucks' wife, Susan Tedeschi, holds a special place in his life, musical and otherwise. She pops up on the smoky, slow-cooker “Back Where I Started” a song co-written by Trucks and Haynes.
Musically the band pulls from the sounds that have been the core of their sound; gospel, soul, electric and acoustic blues and southern rock blend to create a sound that has been a trademark of American music since the early 1970s. Kicking off the disc is a version of a relatively obscure Dylan track. “Down In the Flood” was published in 1967 but made its way onto one of Dylan’s Basement Tapes. Here the DTB has stamped it with their signature rumbling bass and Wurlitzer highlights. Derek Trucks time with Eric Clapton shows up occasionally, as on the track “Down Don’t Bother Me.” The swampy humidity of the environs comes through on “Don’t Miss Me” thanks to the grinding guitars and the singing crickets.
There is a pop-element to Already Free that might surprise a few but this isn’t an album for groundbreaking playing or forays into new territory. This album represents a group of road-weary warriors taking a break, hanging out at home and laying down a dozen tracks that reflect all those years, all those miles.