This disc reminds me of the early 1970s - and it's not just the use of Hammond organ. I refer to the good parts: say what you will about the downside of that decade (and in retrospect, it was heaven compared to the political, musical and fashion horrors of the 80s), but the first half was very fertile music-wise. I refer to the eclecticism of that time - while not a good time for mainstream jazz, it was when fusion styles flourished (and before they became a bad style-over-substance joke), rock and jazz bands could from time to time share concert bills and albums were released on major record labels that were not only not "blockbuster" material (really, could you imagine Laura Nyro, Bill Monroe, John Cale and Ornette Coleman - all signed to majors in the early 70s - "emerging" today, they’d get major label deals?) but have a wide, inclusive sense of variety.
Enough about then - now belongs to The Derek Trucks Band. Not only is he an individualistic, cliché-free and superb
slide guitarist, but a fine bandleader with a healthy disdain for musical barriers. There some wonderful vocals here by soul/R&B veteran Solomon Burke and one by Susan Tedeschi (imagine a young Bonnie Raitt) in the grand ‘n’ glorious Gospel-marinated, Southern-fried R&B/soul tradition. Trucks’ guitar almost literally transmutes to a human voice singing in tandem with Qawwali vocal master Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Trucks’ ensemble recall Santana at their peak (circa Abraxas
) on the steamy salsa/rock/blues/bolero fusion of "Kam-ma-lay," with impassioned singing by Ruben Blades. The twisty, pointed instrumental "Lookout 31" recalls some of the early 70s less commercial and slightly more caustic fusion: Tony Williams’ Lifetime, Matching Mole and Frank Zappa. Throughout, Trucks sears and soars, applies his rough-hewn, blues-based, Duane Allman-inspired tone to blues, R&B/soul, Pakistani, jammy rock and open-ended jazz (the dreamy closer "Frisell"), while Kofi Burbridge lays down rich, billowing cushions of Hammond B-3 organ. What’s more, Trucks’ posse avoids the ain’t-we-hip/eclectic facileness that some albums of this type fall prey to - there’s jovial flair, commitment and focus in the performances here. Consistency? It’s overrated, and here’s the (fun) proof. Bands - and albums - like this just might give "fusion" a good name (again?)