Blues master Derek Trucks slides into Boston#039;s House of Blues April 2

by Beacon Staff • April 1, 2009

Ask any guitarist: Playing slide is tough. Real tough. One of the backbone elements of the blues, slide guitarists don't simply hit punctuated notes by pressing down on different. frets.

The guitarist instead will use a "bottleneck" (named after the literal glass bottlenecks that traveling bluesman used to use) around their finger, running his hands up and down the neck of the instrument, creating seamless, steady notes that change in pitch.

The style is a staple of the genre and one that, in the grand scheme of things, very few people have mastered.

Derek Trucks, performing at the House of Blues on Thursday, April 2, is one of those people.

Still under 30 years old, the musician has spent his life mastering the blues and working alongside some of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Five years ago, Rolling Stone placed Derek Trucks on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time," calling his work "fluid.[moving] easily between Southern rock, reggae, gospel, jazz and African music."

Fans of artists that have drawn from modern blues music such as John Mayer and John Butler owe quite a bit to the career of Trucks, a career that started at a very young age.

Nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, Derek was a childhood prodigy, mastering the guitar with uncanny precision at age nine.

By 12, he was playing with the band. Before the age of 20, the Derek Trucks Band had already released their second album (iOut of the Madness/i, 1998).

In early 2009, the album iAlready Free/i was met with positive reviews. It opens with a cover of "Down in the Flood" by Bob Dylan, one of several artists Derek Truck had shared a stage with before he could legally drink in the United States.

Aside from recording and touring with the legendary Allman Brothers Band for several years, Trucks has released over five albums with the Derek Trucks band. Their discography is eclectic, including 2006's iSonglines/i, a brilliant collage of New World rock instrumentals and blues ballads.

If the description of iSonglines/i sounds a bit like "musical jambalaya," it's actually a marginally successful rundown of the record's nature.

Some tracks, like the ten minute "Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni," blend Eastern-influenced percussions with traditional blues guitar work.

Immediately following "Maki Madni" is "Chevrolet," which resembles, quite simply, an authentic southern slice of musical Americana.

"I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free)," meanwhile, is a powerhouse gospel number with enough emotion to blow the doors off the back of a church.

It's about this time in the record that you've completely forgotten that, four songs prior, the album was gleaning most of its elements from a completely different corner of the globe.

Somehow, amidst all of the style bending and genre flip-flopping, a cohesive sound emerges that feels both one-of-a-kind and right at home.

This Thursday, the Derek Trucks Band will be playing at the House of Blues to promote their newest release, iAlready Free/i.

If the group's eclectic history is any indication, do not expect your run-of-the-mill blues show.