Kickin' It at the Barn
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2004, Volume 11, #6
Written by John Metzger
To many, Lowell George was Little Feat. So, when the group reunited to record Let It Roll in 1988 ó nine years after his untimely death ó itís understandable that many fans were skeptical. Though the resulting album offered plenty of promise, it wasnít on par with the bandís legendary outings from the early í70s, a time when it unleashed such classics as Sailiní Shoes, Dixie Chicken, and Feats Donít Fail Me Now. Every few years throughout the í90s, the reformulated ensemble returned with a collection of new material, and each has been met with the same criticisms that essentially stated that the group had lost some of its focus, and without the guidance of its chief lyricist, its songwriting had lost its edge.
Musically, however, Little Feat has continued to develop and grow, and as is evidenced by its latest studio outing Kickiní It at the Barn, it has never sounded better ó at least from an instrumental standpoint. Granted, its songs are still somewhat formulaic, lacking the type of nuance that made Georgeís contributions so magnificent, and although the group occasionally concocts an ambitious statement ó such as the sprawling epic Corazones y Sombras ó it inevitably fails to recapture the magic and the brilliance that once surrounded it.
Still, Little Feat remains an incredibly tight ensemble, and where the 11 tracks on Kickiní It at the Barn might have become rote in the hands of a lesser outfit, the group triumphantly relies upon its prowess to propel its material, whipping it into something far more than it rightly should be. Indeed, the same combination of laid-back country-rock, New Orleans-baked jazz, and Southern-fried boogie-blues that has comprised Little Featís signature sound since its eponymous debut can be found scattered throughout its latest outing, and the bandís newfound, acoustic-oriented approach yields an earthier tone that perfectly suits its bucolic, yet brawny style. If only it had the songs to match, Little Feat would rise again to the pinnacle upon which it once stood, but for now, fans will have to be content with the nearly flawless mimicry of a band that, however admirably, is merely covering itself.
Kickin' It at the Barn is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box