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'"

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Little Feat’s eponymous debut started out as a little-known record filled with trucker love songs, road anthems, and its fair share of slide guitar. While the album sold only 12,000 copies in 1971, it remains the band’s best effort. It contains the definitive version of their classic, “Willin’,” and is the closest the band ever came to the raw, roadhouse vibe they tried to cultivate.

Led by Lowell George, the band put together an exceptional set beginning with “Snakes on Everything.” The track is a straight rocker and sets the stage nicely with George’s fluid slide work. The A side then takes a sentimental turn with the vocal harmonies of “Strawberry Flats,” the loneliness and regret that runs through “Truck Stop Girl,” and the prayer-like contemplation of “Brides of Jesus.”┬áThe theme continues with “Willin’,” a song about lovesickness and isolation. Ry Cooder guests on slide guitar for Lowell George who injured his hand during the sessions.

“Hamburger Midnight” sounds like a barroom fight with wailing guitars and vocals. “Forty-Four Blues: How Many More Years” is an enjoyable medley of Howlin’ Wolf covers, and the the rest of the B side is marked by the same laid back, western aesthetic that dominates the disc’s opening cuts.

Buoyed by images of smuggling, smoking and struggle, “Little Feat” is a major moment in the band’s catalogue and stands as one of the finest examples of western blues/rock of the early 1970s.

HIghlights:

Strawberry Flats, Truck Stop Girl, Willin’, Hamburger Midnight, Forty-Four Blues: How Many More Years