Derek Luttrell is furtively shuffling about the creaky wooden floors of my cramped Colorado kitchen. It’s well after 1 a.m., and we haven’t even been introduced yet, but there he is, drinking my wine, trying his best to blend in. More than a thousand miles from home and five thousand feet above sea level, Derek – tired-yet-eager eyes, sunken shoulders – displays the body language of a shelter dog who’d really, really love to get adopted but doesn’t want to be an imposition. Which is to say he’s exactly the kind of shaggy-haired dude you want to bring home and let crawl inside your heart.

The same must be said for Derek’s songs, which both simmer patiently and boil over with warmth and life, often within a matter of moments. To take the pulse of Tired Dogs, Old Trees – Derek’s first fully-arranged full-length, recorded and produced with the help of Miles and Daxx Nielsen, Daniel James McMahon, and Monica Martin (of Phox), among others – is to get lost in the pensive pitter-patter of an unpretentious folk ballad before being thrust upright for the thump-thump-thumping of a soil-scattering Americana jam.

Common as it may be to find a white guy with a guitar playing songs influenced by the likes of Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle, Derek is a rare breed in the Americana-meets-folk field not just because he’s only 25 years old but writes and arranges songs like he’s been doing it for decades. No, D-Trell (as he’s known on the sleepy streets of Stillman Valley, IL, his hometown) has one of those voices – the old-soul type that turns heads in noisy clubs and commands everyone to shut up, pay attention, right now. It warbles and trills, whispers and whistles like a warm wind on a late-summer day. It’s truly something to behold.

Let it – and the songs on Tired Dogs, Old Trees – into your kitchen. Pour them a glass of wine. You won’t be sorry.

Drew Bixby
February 2013
Denver, CO [+]