Little Feat’s Latest “Rooster Rag” Features Songs Penned with Robert Hunter

:: Bluebird Theater :: September 13 ::
:: Blues & Brews Festival :: September 14 ::
:: (Festival runs Setpember 14 - 16) ::

By Brian Turk

There were a few little things going on in the United States in 1969. There was a heavily debated war happening far away from home, racial tensions were at a boiling point, and revolutions were being planned and implemented. Rock and roll had been on the radio for over a decade, and that revolution was already in full swing — but 1969 is the year that the rock and roll army gathered at Yasgurs farm, declaring their independence.

That same year, Lowell George left Frank Zappa’s Band The Mothers Of Invention to form a band called Little Feat. Made up of L.A. boys with southern roots, Little Feat combined blues, country and R&B with funk, soul, and jazz fusion to come up with a sound representing everything that rock and roll is made of.

In 1972, George asked guitarist Paul Barrere to join the group, and for seven years the two shared the stage until George’s passing in 1979. Little Feat broke up after the death of their frontman, but in 1988 they reformed with five of the band’s original members, and four of those original members are still with the band today.

Little Feat recently released their first studio album in nine years, Rooster Rag, and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter rolled up his sleeves and joined in on the project. It isn’t a huge surprise Hunter would wind up working with Little Feat, it is a great fit. The band already had strong songwriting by Barrere, Bill Payne and Fred Tackett, but sometimes you just have to see what  can happen when you bring another perspective into the mix.

“Our managers used to manage the Grateful  Dead,” said Barrere in a recent interview with The Marquee. “When we originally started working on this album, it was going to be a blues project. We went into the studio in February, 2011 and recorded a bunch of blues songs, two of which made the record — ‘Candy Man Blues’ by Mississippi John Hurt, and ‘Mellow Down Easy’ by Willie Dixon. Then we went on the road and started to play all those songs, and they started to develop more into, well, Little Feat songs, as opposed to just straight blues songs.  Our manager introduced Billy and I to Robert through the internet, and I sent Robert a track that I was working on called ‘Scuffle the Shuffle’ and told him I had some lyrics I had already been working on.  He replied with a whole slew of lyrics of his own.  I wrote back saying, ‘Some of these are really great, do you mind if I kind of pick and choose and put them together with the lyrics I got,’ but he really wanted to have his whole lyric intact. Bill Payne, on the other hand, didn’t have any lyrics to deal with, so he started taking some of the lyrics Robert was sending us and started writing music to it. Bill kind of struck up this whole internet conversation with Robert, and they have been writing a bunch of songs. I think it’s great.”

Rooster Rag features four songs written by Payne and Hunter, and Hunter’s contributions stand out while not standing in front of Little Feat’s signature sound.

Barrere and Hunter didn’t wind up working on any songs together for Rooster Rag, but Barrere did wind up contributing a song he co-wrote with another talented songwriter.  “I wrote ‘Just A Fever’ with Stephen Bruton before his illness got really bad and took him,” said Barrere. “We had actually been friends for quite a while, but had never written together, so when he came out to L.A. we got together at my house and we started these two songs; one was ‘Just A Fever’ and the other was called ‘Why You Wanna Do Me Like You Do Me When You Know You Should Be Doin Me Right.’ That  ‘Doin’ Me’ one I did on a solo project that will be released next spring. With ‘Just A Fever,’ we were kind of chuckling about, you know, how we had a shared interest in the grape and the grain, probably to the excess, and how we managed to overcome that, and how do we get ‘Delirium Tremens’ into a song. We had this idea about just a fever, and kind of a typical rock and roll love song if you will. So it was just a great tag line for the chorus. Delirium Tremens…Jesus.”

Little Feat may be doing some things differently nowadays, like not partying as hard or working with Robert Hunter, but some things never change. “We infuse a lot of sounds into what I call ‘The Little Feat Gumbo,’ you know, throw a little splash of this in, a little splash of that, and it winds up having this distinct sound, which has been a blessing and a curse — but more of a blessing as far as I’m concerned. It’s a curse too, well, basically record labels [are], because they don’t know how to market this stuff. They go, ‘Well, it’s rock, but it’s a little bit of country. Maybe it’s rhythm and blues. Wait, there’s a little bit of jazz in there.’ You know? So it’s kind of a quandary that’s followed us for 40 years, but it’s been a great 40 years,” Barrere said.

That quandary, though, also lends Little Feat to being a great fit for the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, which they will play this month. “It’s been a couple years since we’ve been to Blues and Brews. I believe the last time Robert Randolph sat in with us, which was awesome. That’s a great festival. Anytime you are in Telluride it’s guaranteed fun.”



:: Little Feat ::

:: Bluebird Theater :: September 13 ::

:: Blues & Brews Festival :: September 14 ::

:: (Festival runs Setpember 14 – 16) ::


Recommended if you Like:

• Hot Tuna

• Allman Brothers

• New Riders of the Purple Sage


Cool, Share this article: