As I look at the cover of The Derek Trucks Band's Soul Serenade
, I begin to wonder what the woman on the cover, clad in a chartreuse dress and carrying some sort of object, is thinking or experiencing, in what seems to be old age. The womanly figure herself is in a shroud of mystery, yet you can't stop looking at her, just wondering what her life story is. There are fields of crops, powerlines that reach beyond the horizon, and empty skies all around, not to mention the dirt road. The cover is a perfect representation of the little disc that is contained int he plastic jewel casing, evocative and mysterious, dirty and beautiful. Soul Serenade
brims with happiness and sorrow, with windy flutes and humming organs. Derek Trucks moans and growls on his Gibson SG better than any death metal/black metal snger wishes, and solos past the clouds and into the atmosphere. The rhythm sections bends and stretches and clings to him like a wool sweater that has just been wash and dried. The album, as is much of the cover, is green
. That is the only way that I can describe the whole album, if I were to describe it as a hue.
is basically two things : blues and jazz. Almost all of the songs contain the endless-oppurtunity improvising apparent in bands like The Allman Brothers Band (Derek also plays with them, alongside Warren Haynes), Gov't Mule, Phish, etc.
Soul Serenade/Rasta Man Chant
"Soul Serenade/Rasta Man Chant" is a long, jazz-oriented song, as are most of the songs here. It begins with cymbal-washes and some calm, melodic playing from Derek. The bass charts out the chord progression, and Derek sets up the melody for the first minute or two. The slow, spare drumming comes in, and the song picks up the pace a bit. Derek solos beautifull, building off of the main theme for the "Soul Serenade" section of the song, all with a glass tube. Eventually, the song winds down, and a steady, almost latin-influence jazz beat comes in. The bass plays a short melody repeatedly, and the organ adds in short burbles of sound. Derek continues soloing throughout, and builds constantly off of the main melody. The song is quite long, but is very pleasant to listen to, as are all of the songs here.
Bock to Bock
"Bock to Bock" starts out with a very catchy, almost walking-bass line, with a standard jazz beat coming in, and some piano and organ accents. Derek and some flutes come in, and play the main theme for the song. I also believe that there are some bells/xylophone playing it, but they are low in the mix. The main theme reminds me very much of old detective movies and television shows, and has a very mysterious vibe, and kind of sounds like something you would here in a grocery store or in a book store, as you ponder through the endless shelves of literature. Derek builds off of the theme, and goes into solo mode, but tastefully as always, never going beyond what the song calls for. The song is just close to the three minute mark, and is one of the shortest on the album.
Drown in My Own Tears
..is probably the most straight-ahead blues song here. The song begins with a slide intro from Derek, and some organ accompaniment. Gregg Allman comes in, along with the whole band. The beat is the basic 12/8 slow-bues song, with Derek adding fills, and also doing some spare rhythm playing. The organ is actually one of the focuses of the song, humming and bubbling throughout the song, with Gregg plaintively delivering the vocals in his own personal style, the drumming and guitar playing become a little bit louder, anticipating Derek's solo. The solo, obviously, is played with a slide, and is evocative and as tasteful as the rest ofn the album, with some nice underlying organ. The song is one of the best on the album, and is especially so with Gregg Allman on vocals. It is the only song that contains vocals.
There is a cover of a John Coltrane song here, "Afro Blue". As you can figure out, the song is very jazzy and improvisational. It begins with some fluttering flute playing, reminiscent of Jethro Tull or the Marshall Tuck Band, and eventually plays the main theme, but with a few notes different. Marracas come in, and the flute playing continues, and sounds very Native American to me. The whole band fades in, with Derek repeating the melody along with the flute, with the rhythm keeping everything down nicely, organ humming, and the guitar and flute harmonizing before Derek goes out on another well-done solo, with some piano and organ hammering away underneath. Derek frantically plays the them again, and it slows done, some quick piano fills, and back into slow-jazz land. The organ accents certain things, with the rhythm section keeping the beat, but also seem to be improvising. The guitars and flute start to harmonize the melody again, and then Derek goes into more solo territory, organ laying down some smooth underlying, piano hammering away, and the flute eventually comes in and harmonizes again. The song dies down, but ends again in a flurry of notes.
"Elvin" is a very spacious sounding jazz song, very reminiscent of what you would hear in a store, as are most of the songs. It eventually goes into another section, with a guitar and piano call-and-response. Derek stops accosionally for some breathing room in the songs, and lets the rest of the band shine also. The piano adds a lot to the song, playing along with Derek and adding some odd notes here and there, and continues to go throughout, becoming slightly repetitive, as it is around six minutes. The song really isn't a standout, but is nowhere near bad, considering that some of the songs here are unbeatable.
Oriental Folk Song
...is relatively the same as the previous song, but is a slow-churrning jazz song. By this point in the album, though, I think people start to become bored or uninterested, as it is almost all jazz songs, and even these ones take awhile to begin to be anywhere near interesting after a few minutes. Needless to say, though, the song is just as melodic and rich as the rest of the songs, but like "Elvin", it just doesn't stand out.
Finally, a song that differentiates itself from the rest of the album, sadly at the end of the albu; acoustic song, with Derek playing away on slide, droning on some notes while playing melodies around. It then goes into a a louder, and beautiful melody. The moraccas come in, as does the flute, which harmonizes with the melody. Two guitar tracks eventually come in, one playing rhythm, one playing lead, somewhat, and the flute playing over top, giving it a very airy sound. It eventually breaks down, and ends very suddenly. It's combination of oriental textrues and a country/blues purist aesthetic make it one of the most enjoyable songs on the album.
Mysterious, evocative, beautiful, harsh, plaintive, sorrowful, joyous, merry, green
..... Soul Serenade
can be summed up in these words, but that is only in words. The album can only truly be experience through your own ears. I reccomend that everyone at least give this album one
listen, or even one
song from it, a listen, it's a fantastic piece of contemporary jazz and blues.
"Bock to Bock"
"Drown in My Own Tears"