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Guitar great Derek Trucks and band play Al Lang Stadium this week

Bill DeYoung

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Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, front and center, and the band that bears their name. Photo: Fantasy Records.

Every decade or so, it seems, something amazing happens to Derek Trucks.

He was just about 10 years old when he first played guitar onstage with the Gregg Allman Band. The connection was there, because Derek’s uncle was Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, but nepotism will only get you so far. He was allowed to play with the big boys because he was smokin’ good. Even as a young kid.

His teenage years were spent as a journeyman, playing wallpaper-peeling slide guitar out in front of his own band, chaperoned by his dad and hittin’ the note in every roadside bar and blues joint within a day’s drive of the family home in Jacksonville. For a while, his guitar was bigger than he was.

“Certainly in the early years it was something to write about, and it was something for promoters to talk about and put on flyers,” Trucks told me a few years ago. “But when you’re dealing with a 9 or 10-year-old kid, or even 14 or 15, just the novelty of that is enough to get people to look.

“End of the day, you either keep doing it – and it’s worth doing and people come around – or it doesn’t happen for you. I think the story only gets you so far.”

He was a full-fledged member of the Allman Brothers Band from 1999 (he was 20) through 2014. The Derek Trucks band existed concurrently – that’s pretty much the way things are in the jam band universe – and today, at 40, he’s considered one of the masters of blues/rock slide guitar.

So good, in fact, that Eric Clapton took him on the road in the late ‘00s to burn the barn, playing slide on all those classic Derek & the Dominos songs (“Layla,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Have You Ever Loved a Woman?”) that originally featured Derek’s spiritual godfather, Duane Allman.

(Yes, Derek Trucks was named for that long-ago Clapton/Allman band.)

Along with his wife, singer Susan Tedeschi, Trucks will perform Sunday (June 30) at Al Lang Stadium. The group is a 12-headed monster called the Tedeschi Trucks Band, with a horn section and soul-shouting backup singers, along with many of the finest jam-band musicians – and Derek and Susan out front as ringmasters.

The concert will also feature the duo Shovels and Rope, and the band Blackberry Smoke.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is touring behind Signs, its fourth studio album in nine years. Like its predecessors, Signs was recorded at Swamp Raga, the studio the couple built alongside the Jacksonville area home they share with their two teenaged children (audio purists take note – they cut the tracks to two-inch analog tape).

The TTB is a relentless touring machine, rarely off the highway. This summer run with other acts (called Wheels of Soul) is an annual tradition; St. Pete is the third city on the itinerary. They’ve barely taken a breath since the winter/spring tour for Signs ended in San Diego.

Just announced: Their ninth multi-night residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, for September and October. The 2018 six-night run was totally sold out.

There’s not much difference between “the road” and home, Trucks said in that earlier interview. “I think that’s what drives a lot of musicians insane, when you can’t tell which one you’re more comfortable in,” he laughed. “I’m pretty happy anywhere I fall. When you’re home, the day before you have to leave for the road, you’re like ‘Shit. I’m not really ready to go.’ But once you get on the road you’re like ‘All right. Great! This is fun.’

“It’s two good lives that we get to lead. There’s a freedom in being on the road, hanging with some of your favorite people on earth, playing music for a living. It gets tiring; all that comes with it. But the upside, in my mind, is infinitely greater than the downside.

“And when I’m home, I’m perfectly content. I guess having the studio there, and the fact that we’re always working and doing something musically, makes me not get the itch to hit the road immediately. Having the studio there, I feel like it’s the best of both worlds. But you can’t replace being on the road and playing music for people.”

Founding bassist Oteil Burbridge, who’d also played with the Allmans (and many, many others) left the band in 2012; his brother Kofi (keyboards, flute) was part of Tedeschi Trucks until his tragic death in February (he passed away the day Signs was released).

The current roll call: Susan Tedeschi, vocals and guitar; Derek Trucks, guitar; Gabe Dixon, keyboards; Kebbi Williams, saxophone; Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, drums and percussion; Mike Mattison, Alecia Chakour and Mark Rivers, vocals; Tim Lefebvre, bass; Eprhraim Owens, trumpet; Elizabeth Lea, trombone.

“With a band like this, there’s a lot of moving parts, so nothing’s gonna stop the ship,” Trucks said. “I think Susan’s really the only irreplaceable person in the band! You could find another guitar player if you had to.”

Tickets and info here.

 

 

 

 

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