Soul Serenade (Columbia) by the Derek Trucks Band is one of the best albums I have heard this year. It won't matter how this album is classified, either, because it has it all. For those who liked Allman Brothers guitarist Trucks on his eponymous band's major-label debut, 2002's Joyful Noise, will find this CD to be even more impressive. Soul Serenade was actually recorded three years ago, before Joyful Noise, but is being released only now. It's been worth the wait because the Derek Trucks Band is hitting on all cylinders from start to finish.
The album begins with covers from two musical music legends-King Curtis and Bob Marley. Trucks uses "Soul Serenade" by Curtis and "Rasta Man Chant" by Marley to deliver one of the more exhilarating musical moments of the year. Trucks' guitar-sling and the fine work of his band show that the difference between the rock-steady beat of Jamaican reggae and Afro-American soul is so slight that it hardly matters. The next track, "Bock to Bock," is even better. Bassist Todd Smallie and drummer Yonrico Scott set the table for the band to deliver a powerful yet subtle swinging blues number. Trucks is on the case with his ax, and his band stays tight and focused at all times, letting the guitarist roam where he needs. The magic of this album doesn't end there although the first two songs will leave you awestruck.
The Derek Trucks Band then pumps the soul classic "Drown in My Own Tears," with Gregg Allman providing a heavy, blues-drenched vocal, which is followed by a tricky version of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue." By this point you will have no doubt about the importance of Derek Trucks and his band. They defy category. They challenge those preconceived conclusions that often muzzle music, and they will leave you wondering why this album had been held up for so long.