Join the Band – Little Feat
The latest offering from Little Feat is the audio equivalent of a classic Neon Park-designed album cover from the past. Picture the poolside beauty from Down On The Farm with her nylon-clad legs and her duck-billed face. Or Waiting For Columbus sun-bathing sweetie with her savagely oversized tomato head. There are parts that fit together really nicely and then there are parts that belong somewhere else.
Is it a tribute album? No: its Little Feat and friends playing both old familiar Feat tunes and covers that theyve never done before. Oh — and a couple covers that they have done. Are you with me so far?
(Before we go any further, this needs to be said right up front: only an evil-hearted bastard would or could say anything negative about Trouble, sung by Inara George, daughter of Feat founder Lowell George. Inara, five years old when her father died in 1979, does a beautiful job with keyboardist Bill Payne behind her. It really and truly is a piece of work.)
Part of the album is reminiscent of The Bands Moondog Matinee – an album of covers that tipped the hat to the folks who inspired Levon and the boys over the years. Take See You Later Alligator, The Weight (featuring Bela Fleck), or Woody Guthries This Land Is Your Land (yes, Mike Gordons bass is tucked in there somewhere), add another dozen or so of those and let the Feat do their thing (on their own), and itd probably be a fun package.
Then theres the chunk of Little Feat classics that have friends woven in: Dixie Chicken (with Vince Gill on vocals and slide guitar wizard Sonny Landreth); Oh Atlanta, which turns out to be a decent fit for Black Crowe Chris Robertson; and Spanish Moon, featuring a lovely acoustic guitar solo by Vince Gill (who knew he was such a Feat buddy?). But, truth be known, if youve experienced Little Feat live using these old standbys as launch pads for exploratory jams, then you know what theyre capable of pulling off. In this setting, they almost sound as though theyve been reigned in in deference to their guests.
And then — oh dear — you have the cuts that come dangerously close to glorified karaoke. The slogging Fat Man In The Bathtub opener just doesnt have the soul of the original, despite Dave Matthews efforts. And we all know that Lowells classic Willin leaned towards being a country song, but Brooks & Dunns slicked-up vocals take it into the land of the big hats and nice voices far, far away from the world of the beaten-down crazy-eyed gravel-throated road warrior whos still got a thousand miles to go — at least.
The bottom line: Little Feat can take songs theyve been playing for close to 40 years and still pull magic out of them in a live setting. Or they could probably have a blast doing an album of covers in their own style. But if theyre going to have friends over to play, maybe try something new that can stand on its own.
Leave the odd matchups for the album covers.