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Little Feat - Rooster Rag Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7.75
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 8.5
Production 8
Creativity 8.75
Lasting Value 7.25
Reviewer Tilt 7.5
Final Verdict: 80%
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Little Feat - Rooster Rag

Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (07/05/12)
Little Feat - Rooster Rag
Record Label: Rounder
Release Date: June 26, 2012


It is never an easy thing for a band long past its prime to continue without its original lead singer, but God bless those that do. The Southern rock outfit Little Feat (the band is technically comprised of native Californians) is thirty years into life without vocalist, founder and principal songwriter Lowell George, and three years removed from life without Shaun Murphy, the band's second vocalist since George's 1979 death. But like any good thing, the band continues to soldier on. Rooster Rag, the band's 16th studio album is their first full-length of new material since 2003 and the first Little Feat album without founding drummer Richie Hayward, who died of pneumonia in 2010.

Little Feat is best known for its seamless ability to blend blues, R&B, country, boogie, gospel, soul, funk and jazz into one cohesive unit. And sure enough, Rooster Rag is proof of that. The disc opens with Mississippi John Hurt's "Candyman Blues," a live staple of the band's for at least the last decade. The song is resolute, determined and just plain resilient. In a few words, it is classic Little Feat. The bouncy title track follows and keeps things moving forward. The album's first real apex moment is the breathtaking "A Church Falling Down," a gospel-infused ballad that is near-perfect. The whimsical and rollicking "Salome," takes things further, as it unravels a yarn about a houseboat and Lousiana lowlands. It is also the kind of song the band could write for the rest of their career and few would disapprove. Much like "Dixie Chicken," "Salome," is alive with attitude.

The smoking "One Breath at a Time," features searing guitar leads, sassy horns and enough attitude to shake up the French Quarter, but unfortunately meanders far longer than it should. It is also at this point, that the band most definitely proves its jam band mettle. It also represents the point at which the album begins to drift off into something less cohesive. "Just a Fever," is a fine rock boogie, but nothing that sets the sextet apart from its contemporaries. And that's the problem. At this point in their career, Little Feat should be writing songs that smash their competition.

As if cognizant of the disappointment of "Just a Fever," Bill Payne settles things down on the breezy "Rag Top Down," a timeless driving song that does everything "Just a Fever," didn't do. But from there, the band slumps again with the disappointing "Way Down Under." And it is also at this point that the fatigue starts to set in. Despite its humorous title and a slew of steamy horns, "Jamaica Will Break Your Heart," is another letdown. The slow-moving ballad "Tattooed Girl," is the second half's best moment, but at this point it feels too late to even give a damn. The six-minute "The Blues Keep Coming," is a crisp and winning effort that should have appeared far earlier on the album. And even though, the album is two songs too long, the sextet closes things out with "Mellow Down Easy," a jubilant romp that features husky vocals from Sam Clayton. Why on earth the band doesn't utilize his energetic and charismatic vocals more often one will never know, but thankfully he gets to shine here.

In the end, the problem with Rooster Rag is its length. Anyone who is familiar with the group knows of their affinity for jamming and groove-based rhythms, but for a band that has released a dozen live albums, Rooster Rag should be a concise, cohesive and seamless foray into studio mastery. Far too many times the album puts on the aura of being a live hootenanny. A veteran band like this should never be making the mistakes. In short, Rooster Rag is a fun and inspired effort with far too many careless throwaways. The only lasting grace is that despite mountains of adversity, the Little Feat train keeps on rolling. Considering the large number of bands that far too often throw in the towel and chase other pursuits, the band's ability to solider on is commendable. One just wishes Rooster Rag had more shining and memorable moments.

Recommended If You Like Southern rock, Dave Matthews Band, jam bands, the bayou


Find Them Here http://www.littlefeat.com
 
Displaying posts 1 - 6 of 6
07:58 PM on 07/05/12
#2
Gunwalls
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I saw them live a couple of years ago. A woman sang "Fat Man In The Bathtub"...unforgivable...
06:44 AM on 07/06/12
#3
Gregory Robson
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I saw them live a couple of years ago. A woman sang "Fat Man In The Bathtub"...unforgivable...
That is definitely unforgivable.
01:50 PM on 07/06/12
#4
Gunwalls
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That is definitely unforgivable.
The band sounded good to be fair, but I just couldn't get over it. I have to admit I haven't kept up with much of their new music beyond "Time Loves A Hero". I think I'll give this a spin though.
06:54 AM on 07/09/12
#5
punster
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Actually, Fat Man when sung with Shaun Murphy is also sung by Paul Barrere. If you're sticking with the Lowell old school crowd than you're missing out on a treat. Granted Lowell was the founder, but the band itself is made up of individuals who are talented in their own right. Shaun added some spice to the band and while I was skeptical at first, I came to believe it worked great. For example, listen to "It takes a Lot to Laugh" and "Distant Thunder".
08:16 AM on 07/09/12
#6
Gregory Robson
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Actually, Fat Man when sung with Shaun Murphy is also sung by Paul Barrere. If you're sticking with the Lowell old school crowd than you're missing out on a treat. Granted Lowell was the founder, but the band itself is made up of individuals who are talented in their own right. Shaun added some spice to the band and while I was skeptical at first, I came to believe it worked great. For example, listen to "It takes a Lot to Laugh" and "Distant Thunder".
I never said I was sticking with Lowell. I'm saying Lowell was irreplaceable and I commend the band for trying to go forward. Personally, I'm bummed Shaun Murphy left. I thought he was pretty top notch. But so it goes. The band is comprised of a slew of super talented musicians and that's why I have given this band and this disc some love on this site.
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