Friday, July 10, 2009


Yes indeed, the Arc Angels have reunited. That's old news, but since they're playing tonight in Houston, they garnered some ink, er, I mean, bytes, on the Chronicle website. See it here

If you like rockin' blues with a harder edge and some of the best geetar playing you're ever likely to see, you need to see the Arc Angels. As Rolling Stone said in their 1992 review of the above-pictured album..."As is true for most music of this genre, Arc Angels offers few surprises: Guitars collide with guitars; the lyrics often are merely syllables serviceable enough for role-playing. But skill and zeal lift the Angels above the pack – it may be an old leather jacket, but these guys wear it well. "

Their story is more or less captured fairly well in the Chronicle piece, but I've got some fluff to add. Of course, bassist Tommy Shannon is not taking part in this tour, but hopefully he'll be involved in future studio efforts. He and drummer Chris Layton, once known as Double Trouble, as in Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Touble, lay down a rhythm section groove that few bands can match. Stevie's untimely death catapulted them into the Angels in the early 90's, and I have to say, I think they're better now then they were in their first tumultous version.

I last saw them play as Arc Angels back in 2005 during some gigs in Austin at world famous Antone's club. Since then, they've done other gigs and last year announced they would be doing some more stuff together.

The melody talent lies in the dual guitarists/singers Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II. Together, they have a creative tension that is the stuff of legends like Jagger and Richards or Lennon and McCartney. Or at least to a Texas blues and guitar rocking listener like me.

I dont' know as much about what Sexton, a teen guitar prodigy, has been up to in the last 15 years, other than stints with Bob Dylan and a score of producing gigs. He's been doing well, VERY WELL for a working musician that is not in a big name band.

Doyle Bramhall II, on the other hand, has been on my radar for a long time. After the Arc Angels stopped playing in the nineties, he released a string of critically acclaimed solo albums, as well as serving as sideman to Roger Waters on his In The Flesh tours, with Doyle performing the vocal and guitar duties of the absent Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmore.

But Bramhall doesn't stop there. In the early 2000's, he had a band called Smokestack that was just awesome. But altough they did some touring and released a killer CD, it just didn't happen I guess. The next thing you know, Eric Clapton decided that Bramhall was a kickass guitarist and hired him on to be his second guitarist for his near constant touring and recording projects. As expected, Bramhall kicks ass on just about every Clapton project save for Cream that Clapton has done in the past decade.

But again, it doesn't stop there. The back story on Bramhall is fascinating. His father, well known Texas blues drummer Doyle Bramhall, was big buddies with Stevie Ray Vaughn. I've heard that he literally grew up with Vaughn, because Big Doyle was the drummer with Stevie Ray up until Stevie Ray formed Double Trouble and hit the big time.

Like those famous people who don't forget their roots or their friends, Stevie Ray took care of his old friend Doyle by recording numerous hit songs Doyle had written, thus spreading the wealth of residuals with his old friend. Whatever his faults, SRV was a stand up guy to his friends.

So Doyle II grew up learning to play around on guitar at the feet of a master. That plus his other exposures to 1970's Austin blues icons like the Thunderbirds and so many other acts.
Check them out if you're into good Texas hard rocking blues. You won't be sorry. The band is promising a live CD/DVD of highlights of their 2005/2006 gigs will be out this fall. I'm hoping that they do a second album. It'll always be compared to the first album, but I suspect it will be every bit as good as the first.

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