Of all the gifts Texas rock and blues fans could have received during the December holiday month, no one expected Saint Nick to bring a reunion announcement for the beloved Arc Angels.
The group, which includes original members Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton (vocals / guitars) and Chris Layton (drums), as well as new bassist Eric Holden, will perform a four-date series in Texas, including a stop on January 21 in 713 Music Hall at POST Houston.
Layton says he was approached by Bill Murray (not the actor), co-founder of the non-profit Concerts 4 Austin Charities Music Series, to put together some sort of celebrity lineup for the Austin Cares benefit show. January 24.
“I thought we could maybe start with the Arc Angels, and everyone was available. Then Live Nation heard about it and wanted to do more shows, so that’s the way it is. is produced, ”Layton said from his car during a Zoom video call with Bramhall and Layton.
“We had regular shows, but nothing was planned. It’s a cool blessing that we’ve had so much synergy from the start, ”adds Sexton, before Bramhall stepped in.
“We are meeting to see if we still have it!” ” he’s laughing. “This synergyThe other concerts will be on Jan.20 in San Antonio and Jan.22 in Dallas, marking their first public performances since 2009.
Holden will step into retired Tommy Shannon’s oversized shoes. He and Layton, of course, are better known as Double Trouble, the longtime support group of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“Eric will be the third person to replace Tommy, and they’ve all been very unique. But no one can. never be as unique as Mr. Tommy Shannon! Said Sexton. “He’s awesome and so funny, even when he doesn’t want to be.”
“It’s the group’s sequoia!” Bramhall offers.
“Well … he has been the taller member, ”adds Layton.
The easy camaraderie and humor of the Arc Angels is apparent throughout the interview. At one point, when the older Layton says he has known the other two for “most of their lives,” Sexton berates him with a quick, “Oh look, he’s playing the age card again! Bramhall just calls him “grandpa.”
And when Sexton shows his camera an old setlist from the early ’90s that he recently found, the others smile in wonder. For the record, he presented 11 of 12 songs from their one and only studio album, as well as a cover of the blues standard “Dimples”.
But even though the band hasn’t performed together regularly or at all for years, their shared musical history sweeps away any spider web.
“We get together and do the songs and it flows automatically, like the time hasn’t passed. We repeat, but we don’t have to. We just fall into it, and it’s pretty cool, ”says Bramhall.
“This group doesn’t really struggle, we just get together and play,” Layton adds. “There may be slight different interpretations, but not a lot. ”
Like another Fantastic Four, this quartet has an origin story (although it doesn’t involve cosmic rays or combustible teenagers). It began in the early 90s at the Austin Rehearsal Center (ARC), which gave the group its name.
Sexton – who briefly came to national consciousness with his debut in 1985 Pictures for fun and Top 20, “Beat’s So Lonely,” had a writing room in the complex. Bramhall was also there working on material for a development deal he had with Geffen Records and Layton had rehearsal space.
Thanks to a common history and crossroads, the trio, which Shannon joined, started playing together and doing gigs for fun. The shocking death of his friend / teammate Vaughan in a helicopter crash in August 1990, moments after leaving a gig in which he and Double Trouble opened for Eric Clapton.
This led to their debut in 1992 (and to date the only studio album) Angels of the Arc, a mind-blowing tour de force of blues rock, social / romantic observation, character studies and even a cathartic tribute to Stevie Ray. Bramhall and Sexton alternated the lead vocals, and that spawned an MTV hit and video with “Living in a Dream”. The Late Show with David Letterman.
But it wasn’t meant to last. The familiar pressures of constant touring and creative differences, along with Bramhall’s acknowledged strong drug addiction, fractured the group. In October 1994, they were playing their farewell concerts in Austin.
The quartet met occasionally for concerts and short tours, including a stop in May 1999 at the then-appointed Houston Air Theater. A decade later, the live CD / DVD Live in a dream has been freed. A second album was discussed but never came to fruition, and the members embarked on other projects.
Both after their initial break-up and over the past decade, the three members have been more than active. Bramhall pursued a solo career and spent time on stage and in the studio with Roger Waters and Eric Clapton. Most recently he has collaborated with married couple Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks of the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Years ago, Layton introduced Bramhall to Tedeschi, and the guitarist ended up playing on one of his records. He was amazed by the play of another guest, Trucks. And when Eric Clapton was looking for a third guitarist who could help him recreate some of the music from the Layla and other matching love songs album, Bramhall recommended it. Trucks had also spent years as a member of the Allman Brothers Band.
Bramhall and the couple begin to write and perform together, with the former now an extended member of the group. “They’re really amazing, Susan and Derek,” Bramhall says. “True people of the salt of the earth”
Sexton also had a solo career and a long career in Bob Dylan’s band, appearing on records and many years in concerts. He has also produced records for Edie Brickell and Lucinda Williams, has been on numerous outings and occasionally performed with his brother Will Sexton.
Oddly enough, while Dylan is known to not say a word to his audience, for much of Sexton’s time with the group, Hibbing’s bard didn’t even introduce the group at the end of the show. It didn’t really bother Sexton, who said Dylan wouldn’t isolate himself from the group off the stage.
“Oh yeah, I saw him everyday and talked to him!” Said Sexton. “But he’s very shy.”
Finally, Layton (aka “Whipper”), remained a favorite studio drummer and was among the cult favorite groups of Storyville and Grady. In 2015, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Layton accepted his trophy alongside Vaughan’s brother Jimmie, Shannon and keyboardist Reese Wynans.
Layton has mixed memories of the evening, but is proud of his accomplishments and those of his band mates.
“I would say the actual performance was pretty exhilarating. And the speech. But these things are always in a different context without having Stevie there, ”he says.
But one of his fondest memories of Rock Hall had nothing to do with the ceremony itself.
“I had just arrived from Amsterdam where I was on tour and jet lagged. So I went to the lobby and I met [fellow inductee soul singer] Bill withers! ”Layton laughed.“ He was in his pajamas and we chatted for a while. He said, ‘I guess you can’t sleep. That is! ‘ And it was a great experience. ”
As for Houston, Sexton says he has a particular fondness for the city and will be happy to return. “Houston is where we settled things at the start,” he says. “We probably played more there than anywhere else. In Pat and Pete’s Bon Ton room. We almost had a residency! The group also performed regularly at the Hey Hey Club and did several KLOL Radio benefit shows at the Summit.
Finally, when asked if these four Texan gigs might lead to anything more, even that long-awaited second studio album, the members seem to be open to anything.
“We always have fun when we spend time together, and something usually follows, whether it’s a good laugh or a finished song,” Sexton says. Layton adds “You never know what could happen with the Arc Angels.”
“Let’s start with these shows,” Bramhall suggests as a final note, before slipping into an exaggerated TV pitchman accent. “Let’s see where we are at! ”
The Arc Angels play at 8 pm on Friday January 21 at 713 Music Hall at POST Houston, 401 Franklin, Suite 1600. The Texas Gentlemen and the Bluebonnets open. For more information and to view COVID protocols (proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required), visit 713MusicHall.com. $ 35 and more.