Little Feat – Join The Band

“I miss Little Feat more then I miss being 8 years old,” said Bonnie Raitt. If you ever saw them at their peak, prior to 1979, then you know she spoke the truth. This quote was coined after the passing of one Lowell George, the founding father of the band mentioned. He was an amazing songwriter, singer and last but not least, a slide player. Lowell George shuffled off nearly 30 years ago and is sorely missed. His presence in this band has never been and never will be replaced. Little Feat, after a period of silence from 1979 to 1988, re-formed and have been on the road and recording ever since.

With Little Feat today are founding members Billy Payne on stellar keyboards (one of the best on the planet), Paul Barrerre still on slide and guitar and Richie Hayward and Sam Clayton continuing their percussive mix. This is a tight core but the music they have recorded since 1988 has been a hit-and-miss affair. I for one have never been a fan of Craig Fuller or Shaun Murphy doing vocals for Little Feat, –  “cause the shoes don’t seem to fit.

Join The Band – named after a song they used to kick off many of their gigs and also a play on words due to the collaborative effort here – is the name of this latest collection of Feat tunes. But not many of them are new and most were written and made famous by the first and second manifestation of the band. Little Feat and some of their friends gathered at Jimmy Buffett’s studio to compile this collection. Yes, Jimmy does join the band for that great song, Time Loves A Hero and one other effort, but overall the results are schmaltzy and commercial.

Willin’, Dixie Chicken, Oh Atlanta, Sailin’ Shoes and other fabulous Little Feat songs are covered. We even get a cover of The Weight (The Band) with Bela Fleck keeping it alive with his banjo. But the record is lacklustre overall, with the funk and the rock missing from the mix. We get Brad Paisely, Vince Gill and Brooks and Dunn (spare me…) and that is really hitting too close to the Nashville bone. The formula followed here is similar to one Jimmy Buffett found successful on his last record, License To Chill. The title of the record was the best thing about that Parrothead offering, even though sales caused it to go platinum.

Players like Fleck and Sonny Landreth on slide and voices like Chris Robinson (the Black Crowes), Emmylou Harris and Bob Seger are nice additions, but the album is flat and lacking either warmth or an edge. Inara George, Lowell’s daughter, does a fine lullaby-like reading of Trouble, which is a lovely touch, while the hoe-down Sailin’ Shoes is strikingly different from the original.

If you are new to the music of Lowell George and Little Feat, go back to 1969-1979 for the fine vintage sounds. If you like what you find there, search out the internet for some amazing soundboard bootlegs that exist. Join The Band is not going to age well in comparison.