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Published: 2005/08/08
by Katie Mavrich

Barnstormin’ Live, vol. 1 – Little Feat

Hot Tomato Records

It comes as no surprise that technology enhances all aspects of our lives, music included. With computer programs such as Garage Band, Cubase, or Logic, digitally recording music can be done with the mere click of a mouse — and several track layers. Little Feat have been making music for more than 35 years and have become technologically savvy over time. Their latest release, Barnstormin’ Live, vol. 1 was recorded during the Barnstormin’ Tour of 2004 and used a variety of recording procedures.

Little Feat's monitor engineer/keyboard tech Roger Cole started out by taking direct monitor feed and inputting it into a laptop's hard drive. In addition, the band's front of the house mix was layered on top. And on top of that, audience audiotapes were blended in. The result is a high-quality live album with sub-par unenergetic jams.

The problem with Barnstormin’ lies in the group’s choice of jazzy blues tracks. The band sought to include "songs that have not been overexposed in our live recording arsenal." Also on the album are tracks from the titular inspiration for the tour, 2003’s Kickin’ it at the Barn. Long, overdrawn jams are omnipresent — "One Clear Moment > Just Another Sunday" drones on for more than 15 minutes — and it contains more recent material. If these songs were energetic like most improvisational jambands, Barnstormin’ would be a kick-ass record. Instead, at times it nearly put me to sleep — the only exception being the catchy "The Blues Don’t Tell It At All."

Perhaps the reason that such tracks haven't been "over exposed" is because of the lackluster energy and extreme length. Of course, something with Volume One in the title can only mean that a Volume Two is on its way. For that, we can only hope, somewhat ironically, that perhaps Little Feat won’t dig too deeply into their catalog (and/or pull out more tracks that original songwriter/guitarist Lowell George helped to create.

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