Derek Trucks New York City, Highline Ballroom, 11/06/08

Derek Trucks Live

Photo: By Xophersmith (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Flush up against the stage at New York’s Highline Ballroom in the Chelsea section of town, it’s pretty cozy on this chilly mid-fall evening. The six members of the Derek Trucks Band come on to the stage with all the ease of walking into their living room. Derek straps on his fire-engine red SG guitar. Drummer Yonrico Scott takes his seat at the drum set and as Derek begins with a gentle country-blues type riff, Scott creates a simple 4/4 rhythm with the shaker held in his right hand. Bassist, Todd Smallie builds the foundation. Half a minute in Scott has picked up the sticks and Derek has picked up the pace. He’s doing the quick 5-beat figure that starts out Bob Dylan’s song, Down In the Flood. Mike Mattison steps up to the microphone and invokes a gritty and soulful “Crash on the levee, river’s gonna overflow.”

As with the entire spectrum of the Derek Trucks Band’s performance, the move from soft and lyrical playing and singing to untethered, earth-shaking guitar playing, rhythm, and singing of an almost gospel-fervor pitch seems imperceptible. After Mattison does a verse of the song, Derek Trucks’ playing begins to build, like a fire going from the kindling twigs and emerging as a raging conflagration. Trucks is, arguably, the best slide-guitar playing performing today. In this opening song, he shows not only technical proficiency, but subtlety and a precise feeling for each note. In six or seven minutes we’ve gone from the gentle opening to a frenzied battle of musical force with Trucks and Scott pushing each other on.

Starting with the second number, “I Know,” we are treated with the stellar playing of conga player/percussionist, Count M’Butu, and keyboardist, Kofi Burbridge. “I Know,” starts out with Derek doing some intense slide playing and soon takes a turn to a funky band-backed vocal by Mattison.

The evening moves into night with some blues and real soul in Don’t Miss Me When I’m Gone and

These Days Is Almost Gone; Mattison evoking the best of Motown and Tamla and the height of that era with his vocals.

Trucks highlights his love and knowledge of North-Indian and “qawali” music on the composition of the late singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan entitled Sahib Teri Bandi. Derek bends and caresses notes and uses the fine increments of pitch that Indian music requires. The percussion and bass playing is complex and undulating. It is a grinding, elevating music that leaves the audience in a place they seem to enjoy.

On Soul Serenade/Rasta Man Chant, Kofi Burbridge shows off his talent with beautiful, jazzy flute playing. A wildly interpretive interpretation of the great Richard Rodgers standard, My Favorite Things, pays homage to Derek Trucks’ great love for the talent of John Coltrane, who did brilliant improvisations on this tune.

Other songs in the set were; I’ll Find My Way, Get What You Deserve, Down Don’t Bother Me, Meet Me At The Bottom, Get What You Deserve, and Leavin’ Trunk.

Coming out for an encore to a greatly appreciative crowd, the Mattison broke out the falsetto on Crow Jane, an old blues murder ballad.

Finishing with a unique take on the gospel song Up Above My Head, Derek Trucks and the entire Derek Trucks Band left the venue with a feeling as if we’d be to a down-home southern church as we walked out into the New York night renewed.

Written by Richard Lipner


Derek Trucks New York City, Highline Ballroom  11/6/08

Performance of “Anyday.”


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