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Little Feat still doing that Rag

Written by Scott Mervis on .

littlefeat_coverart_300x300When Little Feat rolls into Jergel's Rhythm Grille in Warrendale Tuesday night, the legendary Southern boogie-rock band will have four of the six members who played on the 1973 classic "Dixie Chicken" and one guy who wrote a song for the album.

Little Feat has weathered numerous personnel changes over the years — the biggest, obviously, being the loss of its leader Lowell George in 1979 — but there's been a fairly stable core to the rhythm section, which has long been one of the funkiest in the business.

The current roster arrives with singer-guitarist Paul Barrere backed by longtime members Kenny Gradney (bass), Bill Payne (keyboards) and Sam Clayton (percussion). Drummer Richie Hayward, who died two years ago after a bout with liver cancer, is replaced by Gabe Ford, the band's former drum tech and nephew of famed jazz fusion guitarist Robben Ford. Also on board is guitarist Fred Tackett, who joined Little Feat in 1988 after working with the band as a sideman. His song "Fool Yourself" was covered on "Dixie Chicken."

What Little does not have on this go-round is another singer to accompany Barrere, who will be charged with singing some of George's classics. From 1987 to 1993, Little Feat employed Craig Fuller of Pure Prairie League. When he left, the band turned to bluesy belter Shaun Murphy, a veteran of Bob Seger and Eric Clapton touring bands, as the first female member of Little Feat. She left in 2009 and is now fronting the Shaun Murphy Band when not touring with Seger.

Little Feat is touring behind "Rooster Rag," its first release since the star-studded 2008 tribute album "Join the Band" and first album of new material since 2003's "Kickin' it in the Barn."
"Rooster Rag" falls in line with Feat's funky musical stew and includes three songs Payne wrote with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter ("Salome," "Way Down Under" and "Rag Top Down"). It is also bookended with covers of Mississippi John Hurt's "Candy Man Blues" and Willie Dixon's "Mellow Down Easy."

Payne recently explained, in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "I was going to call it 'A World of Blues by Little Feat,' with influences of Charlie Mingus in there, along with John Lee Hooker, Delta blues and blues from Memphis and Kansas City, but we wound up making a regular album."

One thing folks at Jergel's can look forward to is musicianship from some grizzled vets that is anything but regular.

The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 to $65. Go to jergels.com.

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