Friday, March 16, 2012
Bobby and Layla
A half hour past our scheduled start, Bonnie telephoned me in the lobby with
On February 29, 2012--40 years and four months later--my wife and I boarded a plane heading SXSE to Texas, intending to visit relatives in Austin a week ahead of this year’s SXSW Music Fest, with me also hoping that some interesting band might be booked early into one of the many clubs.
Thinking back to 1970 and '71, all of the original “Friends” (such as Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, Rita Coolidge, etc.) had moved on, and three of those major players had
That would be the same Bobby Whitlock who also played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass box set, the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street (uncredited), and many other albums including maybe a dozen of his own; who left the music business for most of 15 years, but who resurfaced in the late Nineties with a new partner on-stage and off named CoCo Carmel; and who just happened to be playing the opening set at an Austin pub on the Sunday of our visit. I never had gotten that sitdown with the long-since-divorced Bramletts, but here was one of their main men and a top musician who might still have some magic in him.
Michael Lunceford (brother-in-law, wine merchant, and photographer responsible for the larger in-concert shots enriching this blog piece) knows the Saxon Pub well, so we headed on over, settled in at a table close to the small stage, and waited. I
When he and CoCo and the band took the stage for a quick soundcheck, we could see
The set they played that night was fine Gospel-influenced Southern Rock, Memphis to Mobile, Augusta to Austin, riven and driven by Bobby’s hard-won, gravelly joy and CoCo’s lift-him-up harmonies and instrumental solos. Yet the whole performance seemed somewhat pro forma and generic--“I’m a Soul man, I’m your whole Man”--a judgment reinforced by the new CD they were featuring, and hawking, with the strange title Esoteric (no number apparent, on The Domino Label), which meanders along and muscles its way through Son House’s version of “John the Revelator” and vaguely spiritual/philosophical pieces that evidently match much of
As the roadies and band disassembled wiring and amps and drum kit, I also learned that the Whitlocks had been Saxon Pub’s weekly featured act for a couple of years in
So maybe I was leaping to a wrong conclusion. Maybe the four were having an off night; maybe I was tired, or distracted by the past. I’ll give the new CD a few more spins and listen harder. With so many major performers of the Sixties and early Seventies tired or retired, dead or getting there too quickly, we should all be celebrating the Soul Survivors… the Whitlocks of Rock.