CoCo Carmel, Bobby Whitlock & Ricky Byrd in background - photo by Michael Sherer
To paint an overall picture of Bobby Whitlock, it’s clear that he’s a versatile and talented pianist, guitarist, singer and songwriter that’s written or co written some very well known and classic songs, especially in the blues-rock vein. His best known are from Derek & The Dominoes’ only record, 1970’s Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Whitlock wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s fourteen tracks, including “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Tell the Truth”, “Anyday” and “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?”
Whitlock also played on George Harrison’s classic “All Things Must Pass,” (1971) and two records with Delaney & Bonnie in ‘69. It was through touring with them that Whitlock met Eric Clapton, who was also in their touring band. Clapton is, of course, the “Derek” of Derek & The Dominoes.
Hailing from from Memphis, Whitlock, 69, brings Southern charm and soulful chops, which are still very much intact. Whitlock was signed by his hometown Memphis based Stax Records in the late ‘60’s, being their only white artist at the time. He learned a great deal by listening and watching Hammond B3 organist Booker T. Jones, who was a mainstay at Stax and the namesake of Stax house band Booker T. & The M.G.‘s.
With Whitlock pairing with his wife CoCo Carmel, they make a formidable duo. Carmel is an accomplished fine singer, songwriter and guitarist in her own right, and their voices blend very well. Carmel has a colorful musical career, having performed live with Dr. John, Phoebe Snow, Jon Bon Jovi, Albert Lee, Billy Preston and others. She has also produced and co-produced several albums, including her own record First Fruit, which was also produced by former and late husband Delaney Bramlett, and was been released 20 years after she recorded it.
With only the acoustic guitars for the duo and a keyboard for Whitlock, it was a stripped down, intimate, heartfelt and nuanced performance that I truly enjoyed. Backing the couple on electric guitar was Ricky Byrd, also soulful and versatile, who opened the show for them on this date. Whitlock & Carmel usually have a local musician in the city they’re in open for and sit in with them.
The set list included Derek & The Dominos’ best work, specifically songs that Whitlock wrote or co-wrote for their sole album. These included “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Tell The Truth,” “Keep On Growing,” “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad,” “I Looked Away,” along with songs from the duo’s 2013 CD Carnival, including “John The Revelator,” “Devil Blues,” “Nobody Knows,” “River of Life” and new material from a soon to be recorded release.
There’s still plenty of gas in this duo’s tank, which is a good ‘ol thing. Go catch ‘em.