Layton, Shannon Can't Shake Double Trouble

Double Trouble: The name's synonymous as Stevie Ray Vaughan's backing band, but it's also a moniker that bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton can't seem to shake, even 10 years after the blues singer and guitarist's tragic death in a helicopter accident in 1990.

The duo returns to that name for the first time Feb. 6, when it will release Been a Long Time on Massachusetts indie Tone-Cool Records.

"After Stevie passed away, we put together the band the Arc Angels," Layton tells Wall of Sound from his home in Austin, Texas. "After that we put together Storyville, but no matter what band we were in people would yell out 'Double Trouble.'"

It took a while before the pair could see themselves as Double Trouble without Vaughan ("He brought us together," says Layton), but by 1998, with Storyville splintering, both Layton and Shannon decided it was time to explore the idea. Accompanied by Austin singer-songwriter Stephen Doster, they sat down with guitars and attempted to write songs.

"We knew we could make a good record, both production and the players. But the most difficult thing was, can we write our own songs and will they be good enough?" says Layton.

To bolster the material, many of the songs included on Been a Long Time bring in big-name contributors. The sauntering ballad "Baby, There's No One Like You" features Dr. John on vocals and piano, alongside Willie Nelson's enigmatic, whispery guitar licks; and the album's opening track, "Cry Sky," unites Charlie Sexton (who produced the album) and Kenny Wayne Shepherd on guitars.

One of the earliest songs recorded for the album — back in 1998 — is a cover of Muddy Waters' "She's Alright," with Doyle Bramhall II on vocals and guitar. Another cover, Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," sung by labelmate and rising blues star Susan Tedeschi, will be the album's first single.

Other players in this stellar blues stew include Jonny Lang and Jimmy Vaughan. Using such high-profile players, however, makes touring the record impossible.

"Our idea isn't to put a band together to go out and play and support the record," says Layton. "Our idea would be to put a new band together to make new music."

To launch the record, though, Double Trouble will play a one-off show Jan. 12 in Austin. It's managed to round up lots of the album contributors for the event, including Vaughan, Tedeschi, Lang, Shepherd, Bramhall, and Sexton. The whole crew will also perform earlier that day for an episode of the PBS television program Austin City Limits.

"We figure it won't be such a stretch for them, doing two shows in one day," says Layton. "After all, it's only Tommy and me who has to play on every single song."