Little Feat has spent the last 13 years trying to escape from the shadow of Lowell George. George, along with bassist Roy Estrada, drummer Richard Hayward, and keyboardist Bill Payne, formed the group in 1969 in Los Angeles. From 1971 to 1973, the band released Little Feat, Sailin' Shoes, and Dixie Chicken. All three albums are absolute classics. Little Feat's combination of country, blues, rock, jazz, and any other style the group happened to dig at the time (the New Orleans sound of Dixie Chicken is a prime example) was unlike anything before it. It was, however, copied by a whole slew of jam bands in the 1990s, and a vast array of artists have claimed Little Feat as an influence.
But after 1973, George's drug use began to take precedence over his songwriting, and the band slowly declined. After another moment of greatness with 1978's Waiting for Columbus, George was found dead of an apparent heart attack. The rest of the group released a half-completed album, Down on the Farm, and then Little Feat was gone forever.
Or was it?
Little Feat's reunion in 1988 was greeted with mixed reviews. Many applauded the talented surviving members for getting together and creating new music. But old-school Feat fans railed against the use of the name. On one hand they had a point. Little Feat was Lowell George's baby. Jerry Garcia's death ended the Grateful Dead, though the rest of the members toured under the name the Other Ones the next year. John Lennon's assassination precluded any hope of a Beatles reunion. Similarly, fans of George's argued, this incarnation was not Little Feat. And in essence they were right. New singer Craig Fuller's Georgesque voice didn't help matters much. But for its last two albums, 1998's Under the Radar and 2000's Chinese Work Songs, the band has finally achieved its own sound by nixing Fuller in favor of female lead vocalist Shaun Murphy. It's the same great band, an almost unchanged amount of talent, a very similar sound, but nevertheless different. It seems Little Feat has at last come into its own, more than 20 years after Lowell George's death.
Given the highly influential band's roots, based as they were in blues and jazz, it seems fitting that Little Feat opens for Buddy Guythis Saturday. Guy really shouldn't need a whole lot of introduction. He is the king of the Chicago blues, having taken the throne from Muddy Waters upon that bluesman's death. Guitarists as preeminent as Eric Clapton refer to Guy as the finest blues guitarist alive today. They could be right. Guy is touring to promote his latest album, Sweet Tea, which was released in May. Little Feat, meanwhile, came out with a greatest-hits album, Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat, just last Wednesday. And folks, they just don't make albums like these anymore.