“I was just a kid,” says Derek Trucks with a dismissive laugh, recalling the seedy dive in South Georgia where I first saw him play five years ago. Now that he’s reached the ripe old age of 19, however, Trucks — the nephew of Allman Brothers Band founding member/drummer Butch Trucks — is a little more confident about his musical abilities.
And this boy wonder’s youth belies his decidedly old soul, whose gutsy roots shine through when he cuts loose on slide guitar.
The Derek Trucks Band released a self-titled CD (Landslide Records) in the fall of 1997 — a long-awaited milestone for the child prodigy, who’s played with the likes of Bob Dylan and Buddy Guy. And on Oct. 20, the group released its second album, Out of the Madness (House of Blues Records), which features a guest appearance by slide-guitar giant Warren Haynes.
The band’s music is tight, well-groomed rock with a surprisingly jazzy edge –plus well-placed forays into blues and funk — that never strays far from Trucks’ signature slide.
Haynes (another Allman Brothers alumnus) once pronounced Trucks’ talent “scary,” adding, “If he’s not already the best slide player on the planet, he soon will be!” (It’s worth noting that Trucks played his first paying gig at the age of 11 — with no less than, yes, the Allman Brothers Band.)
Trucks has cultivated his musical tastes way beyond his rock birthright and his passion for the slide, however: Strains of world-beat and even classical music make their way into his repertoire. However, the Florida-born, Atlanta-based musician admits that he always comes back to staples from his childhood — like the Delta blues and Southern gospel. “But [the band] listens to everything [when they’re] on the road,” Trucks says. “I just want to listen to music that moves me.”
And movement has become central to Trucks, whether it be geographic (while on the road with his band) or rhythmic. “I have to leave things open,” Trucks explains. “I have so many long-term ideas for [my music].”
However, Trucks stresses that he tries to avoid getting so caught up in planning for the future that he misses the present. “It’s hard to keep music honest if you’re looking too far ahead,” he notes. Trucks sees a tendency in modern music, particularly for his generation, “to move away from nature and the here-and-now.” He views most pop music — the genre his age group most listens to — as a reflection of the chaotic way most people live their lives. “[Music] was once passed down from generation to generation; now, it’s moved so far from its roots,” he laments, with the nostalgia of an 85-year-old bluesman.
Trucks says the idea of his playing music for a living was scary for his father, who’d seen his brother Butch through the Allman Brothers’ rough, wild, early years. “I’m very lucky to have parents that never wanted to live out their music dreams through me,” Trucks notes quietly.
His family was, however, duly impressed with the young boy’s talent (he first picked up a guitar at age 9). Trucks himself doesn’t spend much time analyzing his considerable gifts, but insists that success for any musician — and especially one as young as he — must be driven by an honest love for the craft. “[My success] just kind of happened and took over,” he says. “It really depends on a person’s intentions.”
Trucks claims commercial success is not a big priority for him right now, but he realizes that his youth gives him the advantage of not having to worry about making the big bucks. “I don’t have the same [financial] responsibilities that a lot of musicians have,” he admits. “I can focus on creativity.”
Happy anniversary, Stella Blue!
The Derek Trucks Band — which also features Bill McKay on keyboards, Todd Smallie on bass, and Yonrico Scott on drums — enjoyed a recent performance at Stella Blue so much that they asked owners Joe Haugh and Peggie McGrath to set up another date, on the spot — which was fine with the club owners. “They seemed to have a [such] a great time here,” McGrath relates, “that we really wanted them back for a special occasion.”
That special occasion is just around the corner. On Friday, Nov. 20, Stella Blue celebrates its first anniversary — an especially noteworthy achievement, considering that the club had to rebuild almost from scratch after a fire severely damaged the building, soon after their grand opening.
Besides the Derek Trucks Band, the anniversary celebration will feature a one-time-only reunion of the now-defunct, popular Asheville band This Man’s Hat — which also played at the club’s opening. “It was very important for us to get them back together for this,” McGrath notes. “They were actually helping us finish painting the night we opened, and they still [were determined] to play.”
McGrath is pleased with the quality of the music for this special celebration. “We want to show our success, and top-quality bands like [The Derek Trucks Band] can help us do that.”
The show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets ($7) are available at the club or at Almost Blue (92 Patton Ave.)