Cautiously Optimistic

Fifteen Hopefuls Make Up Austin's Musical Class of 2001

Cautiously Optimistic
Photo By Todd V. Wolfson

Double Trouble

Title: Been a Long Time

Label: Tone-Cool

Release Date: February 6

These Guys Sound Familiar: After local supergroup Storyville split in 1998, Texas' best-known rhythm section, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, wanted a vehicle for songs they'd written themselves. By the time they'd enlisted nearly two dozen friends to help record an album, they had co-written five tunes and collected enough starpower to begin entertaining major-label offers, before settling on respected blues indie Tone-Cool.

"We talked to the majors, but decided the most important thing was to find a company with stability that was still small enough where both us and the label would live and die by the project to some degree," explains Layton. "For the amount of sweat equity and actual money we invested, we couldn't afford to sign with a major, have our A&R guy fired, and see the album shelved."

Notable Co-Conspirators: Funny you should ask. Largely produced by Charlie Sexton, Been a Long Time also welcomes Doyle Brahmhall II, Dr. John, Susan Tedeschi, Jonny Lang, Willie Nelson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, Jimmie Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton, Stephen Bruton, Derek O'Brien, Reese Wynans, Riley Osborne, Denny Freeman, Van Wilks, Tosca, and Malford Milligan.

What to Expect: Local radio listeners may hear the Vaughan/Barton duet "In the Middle of the Night" or the reunited Arc Angels and assume Been a Long Time is guitar-oriented, but Layton says they'd be wrong.

"When we play it for people, they tend to say 'Man, there's some really good songs on here,'" he says. "Then again, nobody we've given it to has said, 'Hey man, where's the guitar?'"

Where to Find Them: Although different stations have begun playing different tracks, the first official single is Tedeschi's cover of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." Yet after amassing many of the guests for an Austin City Limits taping and an Austin Music Hall gig last week, Layton says they're without a regular band and clueless as to how they'll promote it beyond radio interviews.

"As smart as we've become, we don't know what the hell we'll do," he admits. "Hopefully, this will be the calling card that stirs interest toward finding a new band of guys that want to share ideas."

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