Released on Decca in 1970, Black Cat Bones’ first and only record is an interesting window into London’s burgeoning blues scene of the late 1960s. Named after a line in a Muddy Water’s song, the band originally boasted a lineup including Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke, who would go on to form Free. The group was something of a revolving door though, and Kossoff and Kirke do not appear on this release. The cast here includes Stu and Derek Brooks who later formed Leaf Hound, and Rod Price who played lead in Foghat for many years.

The album’s opening track, “Chauffeur” establishes the immediacy of their sound with Brian Short’s deep, moody vocals, and Derek Brooks’ full, warm tone on guitar. “Death Valley Blues” is a slow-burning track that feels like Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which was released on “Zeppelin III” in the fall of 1970.

“Please Tell Me Baby” ups the tempo, reeling between tightness and a tongue-in-cheek jam where Robin Sylvester’s guest piano work slows, halts and kicks. The bands seems to be having a ball here. On “Save My Love” the album takes a heavy turn, as the bass and lead guitars follow the same line. When Derek Brooks breaks off from his brother Stu’s bass, the solo is executed to great effect and is in service of the song. No noodling or needless pyrotechnics here (think Alvin Lee), just straight ahead lead phrases that build upon the song’s central riff.

“Four Women” is the only cut that feels stuck in time. An unfortunate treatment of Nina Simone’s original, the opening acoustics and Short’s vocal styling feel a bit dated. The track is filled with a misplaced sadness that fails to resonate given the authenticity of the source material.

The album moves ahead with “Sylvester’s Blues,” a Price-penned homage to the delta sound. The band alternates between acoustic and electric sections, and pulls the record back from the brink of inconsistency threatened by the Simone cover. Another Price original, “Good Lookin’ Woman,” rounds out the set, with vocals and guitar hitting the same notes in a satisfying hard blues workout.

In all, Black Cat Bones’s “Barbed Wire Sandwich” does what good blues should do. It breathes new life into the form and makes a unique mark on the scene with a compelling combination of tradition and invention.

Highlights: Chauffeur, Death Valley Blues, Please Tell Me Baby

An obvious fan of The Grateful Dead, blue-eyed soul, and the Blues, Greene chugged through two sets with smooth vocal delivery and confident guitar work. And while the comparisons to Bob Dylan are misplaced (he bears a physical resemblance, but has better chops and a more palatable, if less distinctive voice), it’s clear that his reverence for 60s  rock classics informs his music immensely.

Covers of The Beatles’ “Taxman,” and a medley of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Another Brick In The Wall,” and “Shakedown Street” found Greene hitting his stride. He traded his guitar for keyboards at one point, and demonstrated he can make his mark there as well. His original material is also strong, and his backing band is up to the task of supporting a guy who seems poised to keep making great music for years to come.

Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett play "Sailin' Shoes"

Little Feat’s Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett played an acoustic set last night at Lucky Strike Lanes in downtown Los Angeles to benefit the Bogart Foundation’s Cancer Research Program. The two veterans were there to honor Little Feat’s late drummer, Richie Hayward, who succumbed to cancer last year. Though attendance was light, the event was well-organized, and a great chance to see the musicians in an intimate setting.
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Barrere, whose tenure with Little Feat began with 1973’s “Dixie Chicken,” played acoustic slide throughout the performance and shared vocal duties. Tackett who did session work with the band as early as 1973, and joined the band as a full-time member on “Let It Roll” in 1988, played acoustic guitar and mandolin. The duo had obvious chemistry as they worked through a 45-minute set of Little Feat classics (including “Willin'” and “Sailin’ Shoes”), as well a some lesser-known numbers. Country singer Nick Nicholson joined them for the last few songs, contributing vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar.
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While this version of the band isn’t the same raw, bluesy combo that recorded a host of great records for Warner Brothers in the 1970s, it’s clear that their maturity has allowed them to feel comfortable exploring stripped-down arrangements of their hits. This was a first-rate set by guys who have been doing it for years, and are now doing it for a great cause.

Nick Nicholson, Paul Barrere, and Fred Tackett play "Willin'"