Just listening to the first 24 seconds of this album will make you say, “Has Duane Allman come back to life?”. Of course when you find out that what you’re listening to is Butch Trucks’ (original drummer for the Allman Brothers) nephew, and he’s called Derek, after the fictitious group called Derek & The Dominos; a band the oldest of the Allmans was a member of, you can’t but think that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. For some reason this 6-string prodigy was already playing with the band at 12, and at 20 was a full-blown member (the youngest of its long history).
Joyful Noise was the 3rd record he released with his band, The Derek Trucks Band, and the first in a multinational. It was edited in 2002, at just 23 years of age, but already an old hand (besides playing with the Allmans, he had played with the likes of Dylan, Joe Walsh, Buddy Guy, and Stephen Stills), it’s his try at amplifying his sound and at showing his wide range of influences, from well-known blues and jams ‘Allman style’ , to jazz, salsa, and Indian music. This attempt to encompass so much makes the record a bit unfocused, and more of an effort to show everything he knows than a unified piece of work. Still, his caliber as a guitarist is,all the same, candy to his fans.
The record opens with a song that gives it its name, after the ‘Duane’ start, the song breaks into a funky rhythm along the lines of Stevie Wonder of the 70s. So Close, So Far Away is a lovely instrumental where his guitar shines with the whipping post lick, but the best is to come with the explosive collaboration with soul legend Solomon Burke on Home In Your Heart. It’s pure dynamite with Trucks ripping on slide guitar and Burke making us believe that his voice hasn’t aged since he first recorded it in 1963. The collaboration with Pakistani musician Rahat Fateh Ali Khan who sings the mystical Maki Madni where again he shows that he’s on first terms with the slide guitar and his Hindú music instruction with Ali Akbar Khan. His approach to salsa and latin music comes from the blessed presence of Rubén Blades on Kam-Ma-Lay, the latin sounds and his guitar bring to mind those of Santana on their first 3 records. This is where he plays the main guitar on the album, a Washburn Custom E300 with two Seymour Duncan pickups and a Super Reverb amp from ‘63, but there’s also room for his legendary ‘61 Gibson SG; the only two he plays on the whole record.
Then Burke’s back to everyone’s delight, the southern aromas return and the slide played with one of the Coricidin pill bottles Gregg Allman had given to his brother, swearing they had belonged to Duane. Every Good Boy goes back to funk and the jazz/rock of the 70s, it’s one of the weakest songs on the record, but things get better with the appearance of his wife, also a guitarist, Susan Tedeschi for an excellent reading of Baby, You’re Right by James Brown, Lookout 31 which has him looking at himself in the mirror of John McLaughlin of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, bordering at moments on free jazz. The record ends with a smooth jazz with an oriental touch called Frisell .
Joyful Noise is an eclectic record where Trucks wants to show at all costs that his universe has expanded far beyond the Allman Brothers music. The downside is that the record doesn’t really come together. As a guitarist, you can’t find a flaw, which shows he’s one of those who has a bright future ahead. Later on he would release rounder more compact albums like Already Free, his best work to date, but Joyful Noise goes to show that Duane’s heir has a big future in front of him.