We are going to try to write an article about Derek Trucks without mentioning Duane Allman...Oops, we just did! But really, this isn’t a cheap shot nor a way to simplify or pigeon-hole 21st century artists with our heroes from the 20th. In this case it’s about an authentic blessing for we all know that Derek Trucks has surely rekindled the flame that flickered out with the death of the Allman Brothers’ frontman. And it’s not by chance as Trucks, just as flamenco artists nurse on flamenco 24/7 from the day they’re born, Derek, nephew of the band’s original drummer Butch Trucks, has grown up immersed in everything Allman Brothers since he arrived on the planet, and that is obvious on every note he plays on any one of his SGs and his totally deft way of using the slide; he might even do so with more virtuosity than the man everyone remembers and whose shadow he has lived under since 1999, when he became an official member of The Allman Brothers Band.
Let’s focus on how we can get close to sounding like probably the best slide guitar rocker in the world. We’ll start with his guitars, the great majority of which are all Gibson SG models. For much of his career Derek has used a ‘62 reissue model, which his signature model is inspired by though with the addition of a master vibrola which gives it that truly vintage look. Surprisingly he doesn’t use his own guitars too much, but instead his recent favourite is an SG Dickey Betts signature model, a replica of the one used by his onetime band mate, which good old Duane also used quite a bit.
Regarding the strings, their calibre and pitch, though many of us may be surprised, are neither very thick nor very lifted from the neck. You could almost say the opposite. He himself admits that he puts the pitch of the strings at a minimum to use the slide better, which is to say, when he wants to pick, the comfort of playing is ideal for the fingers. In addition, he uses a thin hybrid calibre, basically a 10-46 standard, except the first and second strings which are a 011 and 014.
To finish up, just as he’s faithful to his guitar, he is also with his amps, almost always using the Fender Super Reverb, as much on stage as in the studio. Of course on tour with the Tedeschi Trucks Band he uses a pair of Alessandro AZZ Amps that are basically a brutalised version of a Super Reverb which gives a bit more punch to a guy who doesn’t use a pedal (except an echoplex delay added to his maxed-out channel) and, more incredible still, he doesn’t use monitors nor in-ears on stage, meaning that his amps are his only source of sound in live shows. This is the perfect simptome of someone looking for the exact tone and doesn’t want to go with mic filters or monitors that lose the real signal of ‘his sound’. From the amps to the ears, uncovered. Amazing but true my friends...and if Derek Trucks does it, let’s give it a shot.