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Published: 2001/08/20
by Ray Hogan

Live From the North Cafe – Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett

Relix Records 2115
The thought of Little Feat continuing on its brilliant path after Lowell
George’s death in 1979 was ridiculous. So why has Little Feat been almost
universally ridiculed since reuniting in 1988? Part of the adverse reaction
to anything the band has done since then is that fans/critics couldn’t shake
the association between Little Feat and Lowell George. The other part is
that some of the band’s second era hasn’t been
very good. Both concerts and recordings have come off as uninspired for a
variety
of reasons. It’s also no secret that keyboardist Billy Payne and guitarist
Paul
Barrere are the most maligned friends that Phil Lesh has brought into the
fold so far.

That said, "Live From the North Cafe", an acoustic concert disc from Feat
guitarists Barrere and Fred Tackett, comes as a welcome surprise. Recorded
in
small clubs Japan and Schenectady, NY, the duo are seemingly without
pressure – and, naturally, the intrusion of a large band – in this setting
and create
a back porch vibe that is as inviting as a cool breeze on a hot August
night.
The guitars and occasional mandolin (from Tackett) are recorded crisply —
they have to be for an acoustic duo album to work. Their vision of acoustic
duets
largely lie in the folk-blues tradition although their rock background is
evident
throughout the 55 minutes.
Barrere and Tackett slightly favor the George-era material. Seven of the
disc’s 10 songs were originally recorded between 1971 and 1979 but even the
new
stuff benefits from the organic approach of an acoustic duo. Barrere sings
with
more enthusiasm than he does on stage with Little Feat these days but
sometimes
over-extends himself in search of that elusive blues howl. By and large, his
vocal performance works.

The best-known song of the set, Dixie Chicken, checks in at 11:29,
which
is too long given the format it’s being presented in. Thankfully, other
highlights
like the bluesy Old Folks Boogie and Willin’ come in at more
digestible
lengths.

"Live From the North Cafe" doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t have to.
In age when anything that doesn’t have an amplifier jacked up to "10"
qualifies
as an unplugged album, this is the real deal. And in their stripped-down
environment, these songs fare much better than they have in Little Feat’s
hands lately.

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