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Little Feat: Down Upon the Suwannee River

C. Michael Bailey By

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Little Feat follows up their acoustic live album ...At Rams Head with this electric live recording, Down Upon the Suwannee River. The new live recording was captured on 36 tracks out in the woods of Suwannee, Florida before an appreciative crowd. Post-Lowell George live Little Feat has been characterized by wall-of-sound mixing that takes advantage of the sheer power as a live band Little Feat is able to express. This power is evident on Live From Neon Park, but was not in as full of bloom as outtakes found on Ripe Tomatos, Volume 1. "Rock & Roll Doctor" from Raw Tomatos, Volume 1 is plodding and powerful, building momentum through the introduction to become a relentless juggernaut that, even in the absence of the song?s composer, is still permeated with George?s genius and sense of humor while maintaining a tornadic velocity.

Suwannee is composed of a heavy dose of Lowell George-era war-horses and a light dose of fine post-George selections. The disc begins with "All That You Dream." Barrere provides a stimulating extended introduction and Bill Payne adds a liberal smattering of keyboard prowess. Barrere and Murphy capably sing the song in the absence of the sure George tenor. Next comes the standard paring of "Spanish Moon" and "Skin it Back," with Sam Clayton exercising vocal duties on the former, and Barrere the latter. "Sailin? Shoes," replete with Fred Tackett?s trademark mandolin shows up. "Big Bang Theory" and "Let It Roll" have become regular concert rave-ups showing off how comfortable Shaun Murphy has become as part of the band. Murphy and Barrere are almost conversational in their intimacy, Barrere?s slide guitar punctuating every exchange.

If there was any question of Little Feat having jam band credentials, that is put to rest in the 28- plus minutes of the band?s tour de force, "Dixie Chicken." Actually, make that the trifecta of "Lafayette Railroad," "Dixie Chicken," and "Tripe Face Boogie," which altogether clocks in at 37 minutes. The introduction to Dixie Chicken ?s "Lafayette Railroad" is unrecognizable and sounds like a late Miles Davis musing with Fred Tackett supplying the muted trumpet. Bill Payne cagily quotes The Last Record Album?s "Day or Night" before sliding into the familiar strains of "Railroad." Seamlessly, "Railroad" gives way to an incendiary "Dixie Chicken" complete with a Kenny Gradney bass solo and a Bill Payne performance of the aria from Bach?s Goldberg Variations. This is the first performance of this piece I have heard that ranks with the superb rendering on Waiting for Columbus .

Bob Dylan?s "It Takes a Lot to Laugh" is presented as a blues vamp with Shaun Murphy shouting soul fire. Ms. Murphy sounds like a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, and Paul Barrere fully establishes himself as a premiere slide guitarist. Little Feat approaches The Allman Brothers Band for a molten Götterdammerüng. "Oh Atlanta" may have its finest performance on record in this version, as does "Willin?." Down Upon the Suwannee River documents a performance of one of America?s finest band?s book with fabulous results. Little Feat has truly never sounded better.

For more information, see Little Feat and Hot Tomato Records .

Track Listing: Disc 1: Introduction; All That You Dream; Spanish Moon; Skin It Back; Big Bang Theory; Bed Of Roses; Cajun Girl; Sailin? Shoes; Rag Mama Rag; Let It Roll.
Disc 2: Lafayette Railroad; Dixie Chicken; Tripe Face Boogie; It Takes A Lot To Laugh; Oh Atlanta; Willin?; Fat Man In The Bathtub.

Personnel: Paul Barrere?Guitars, Vocals; Fred Tackett?Guitars, Trumpet, Mandolin, Vocals; Shaun Murphy? Percussion, Vocals; Sam Clayton?Percussion, Vocals; Bill Payne?Keyboards, Vocals, Kenny Gradney?Bass, Vocals; Richie Hayward?Drums, Vocals.

Title: Down Upon the Suwannee River | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Hot Tomato

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