LITTLE FEAT: FEATS DON'T FAIL

I'll never forget road tripping to New Orleans for Mardi Gras when I was in college. Five of us piled into an old Chevy and drove all night from Ohio. Our soundtrack for the excursion was a live Little Feat tape (CDs not having fully taken hold yet). The music of the Feat kept us rolling "right through the night" and provided a perfect soundtrack for our jaunt to the Crescent City. Seventeen years later, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that the group that manufactured some of our favorite raunchy party music is alive and well--though minus the brilliant Lowell George who passed on to the great jam in the sky in 1979.

That being said, the band's new DVD release Highwire Act--Live in St. Louis, which was filmed last August, offers much the same energy that made the group a roots rock legend. In many places, the interplay between the musicians is as vital as the heady days of Waiting for Columbus. Drummer Richie Hayward kicks off the show with his signature high-energy chops (he's currently on tour with Bob Dylan) and the group launches into a nice opening jam that becomes "Time Loves a Hero."

What's great about the latest incarnation of the band is its jam-tinged take on this well-acclaimed material. Guitarist Fred Tackett brings a virtuoso spirit to the music that serves as a driving force to the classic Feat catalog, as well as to the new ditties. Vocalist and guitarist Paul Barrere is no slouch either, laying down the time-tested licks and fingerwork that cement these tunes, while belting out the lyrics with understated style.

In fact, everyone in the band is damn good and stands out at one point or another on this live digital romp from St. Louie. Shaun Murphy can hang with the best of female blues vocalists. Percussionist and vocalist Sam Clayton lays it down dirty on the skins and provides power crooning on "Spanish Moon," one of my personal favorites (with this version being as good as any). And let's talk bass: the animated and way talented Kenny Gradney shakes the low-end like a man possessed. Bill Payne on keys and vocals brings his smooth vibe to the mix, puttin' down some very tasty synthesized jams vaguely reminiscent of Steve Winwood.

This Little Feat band plain rocks. In addition to the old faves on this one, be sure to check out some of the group's newer material, including "Night on the Town" and "Cajun Girl," both of which are very fine creations. Tackett on trumpet and mandolin is not to be missed either. Keep those Feat movin'!

Check out Little Feat gear and CDs at www.littlefeat.net.

Nick Hutchinson
JamBase | Colorado
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[Published on: 3/8/04]

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