Live At the Rams Head
is Little Feat’s Unplugged
. Culled from shows held at the famed Annapolis Maryland nightspot between June 19th and the 22nd
before an intimate crowd of about 200, Rams Head
is a slanted look at the band’s thirty-year repertoire. Gratefully, I noted several stock songs not present. "Dixie Chicken," "Fat Man In the Bath Tub," and "Sailing Shoes," as well as "Apolitical Blues" and "Two Trains" are all missing in action. That is fine. With only a couple of picky examples, the songs Paul Barrere and the band chose for this acoustic outing all translated well to the wood.
Of the Lowell George-era music, Shaun Murphy’s take on "Honest Man" and Barrere’s on "Oh Atlanta" rock confidently, while the "Spanish Moon/Skin It Back" medley suffers a bit from the lack of electricity. The newer, post-Lowell George music, to a song, are superior and revelatory. "Calling the Children Home," from 1998’s Under the Radar, is a radio active gumbo of New Orleans shuffle, gospel, slide guitar, and rave up twelve-bar. The cover of The Band’s "Rag Mama Rag" (from 2000’s Chinese Work Songs ) is a full-tilt boogie even stripped down. The cover sports Barrere’s sinewy, muscular slide guitar and Fred Tackett’s antibluegrass mandolin. Barrere’s vocals are convincing and committed. "One Clear Moment" from 1988’s Let it Roll, is superb, Shaun Murphy having made herself at home in the band. The title track of that album suffers not at all in the absence of electricity. It remains one of the most infectious songs in the band’s considerable book.
There are exceptions to the statement that the newer songs come off better. "Easy to Slip" paired with "I Know You Rider" feels totally natural and while it may warrant comparisons to the Grateful Dead, this music is closer to the Mick Taylor Rolling Stones. "Easy to Slip" is as crisp and urgent as the original and is given a just workout here. Again Shaun Murphy comes into her own, singing with great soul, on the Lowell George vehicle "On Your Way Down," Ms. Murphy adds her own special menace to the already dark words of Allan Toussaint.
It has been hard for the band to shake the hold of Lowell George since his death in the late 1970s.
That is unfortunate.
Little Feat features some the finest musicians performing today. Their post-George music has been uniformly inspired and inventive, worthy of inclusion in any serious collector’s stock. This acoustic live album only serves to further highlight the superior songwriting of Barrere, Tackett, and Payne as well as the latter’s significant contribution to rock music on keyboards (check out that into to "Oh Atlanta"). I celebrate the formation of Hot Tomato Records and always look forward to new releases.
Visit hottomatorecords.com .