Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” endures by its premise, superb songcraft, attuned covers and absolutely rousing blues-rock performances. Guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, keyboardist/vocalist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle, and drummer Jim Gordon formed the band following their time together in Delaney and Bonnie (Bramlett) & Friends, and the sessions for George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” Allman Brothers slide guitarist Duane Allman joined them for 11 of the album’s 14 songs, enhancing every one, and creating momentous guitar prototypes with Clapton in the process.
Husband and wife Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi enjoy serendipity connections to “Layla.” Tedeschi was born on the day in 1970 that “Layla” was released. Trucks was named for the Dominos, his uncle Butch Trucks having been a founding Allman Brothers drummer. Trucks spent 15 years in the Allman Brothers himself, and toured in Eric Clapton’s band, rebuilding with stunning facility many of the slide guitar licks Duane Allman stamped on “Layla.” He outdoes himself here, at Virginia’s Lockn’ festival in 2019, when TTB surprised fans by playing the album in its entirety, augmented by guitarist/vocalists Trey Anastasio and Doyle Bramhall II.
Clapton’s forbidden pining for George Harrison’s wife inspired the “love” songs he and Whitlock wrote for “Layla.” In the initial pensive notes of “I Looked Away,” the longing, earnestness, and the newfound vitality, bubble right up. Easing into “Bell Bottom Blues,” Tedeschi and Anastasio plead in vocal duet, leading the band through an ideal, soul-stirring love song. The energy escalates by the life-affirming “Keep on Growing.” Long a staple in TTB’s sets, the song continues to flower by the hard-charging arrangement, and Trucks’ mesmerizing, incendiary soloing.
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” showcases the individual talents of the four guitarists. As they borrow from, and build upon, the phrases in the “Layla” version, in a faster tempo, they also allude to some of the tune’s century-old blues takes. “I Am Yours” then shuffles gently, its Middle Eastern lilt reflective of the music Harrison was drawn to in the ‘70s, and that Trucks delved into with his Derek Trucks Band in the ‘90s. Keyboardist Gabe Dixon sings with Mike Mattison, their voices blending superbly within the adoration. But intensity reigns again in “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad,” the TTB horns pumping waves of heat through an encyclopedic array of blues, rock and soul music inspirations. Tedeschi then shows what a biting blues guitarist and emotional, channeling singer she’s become during “Have You Ever Loved a Woman.” As she belts out, “Something deep inside of you won’t let you wreck your best friend’s home,” the real blues, and the real gravity of Clapton’s impetus, crashes through her voice like a ton of bricks.
“Layla” concludes the concert in note-perfect, grand fashion, the 14 musicians engrossed in the historic nature of the moment. Their attention to detail, unique charisma and bursts of creativity cause “Layla Revisited” to be as much a riveting success as its predecessor. It’s heartening to know that this music still matters this much.
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Featuring Trey Anastasio
‘Layla Revisited; Live At Lockn’ ‘
Release: July 16, 2021
Label: Fantasy Records