Vinyl Frontier: Little Feat, Dixie Chicken

Investigate your old albums and something becomes alarmingly apparent: the past is a long time ago, and that vinyl canyon is full of echoes.

In 1973 this collector of scratched records and sticking memories was heading for the sixth form at grammar school. John Martyn’s Solid Air, already chronicled here, came out that year. Also, out was my long-lost Afro-fuzz hairstyle – and this third album by the LA rock band with the laidback sound and chords that roll like lazy waves on a hot beach.

Little Feat were led by Lowell George, who sang and played slide guitar, sliding the notes down the neck rather than in the usual ‘up’ direction. The Rolling Stones liked the band’s sound, which finds echoes on Exile On Main Street.

Another US guitarist, the great Ry Cooder, is rumoured to have influenced Honky Tonky Woman – a Cooder song in a magpie shirt run up for Mick Jagger.

The Rolling Stone review of 1973 makes the Stones comparison, hinting at a two-way borrowing, with the sound on Dixie Chicken being “thickened” by a female chorus led by Bonnie Bramlett, much as the Stones do on Exile.

Anyway, the Stones roll on towards the geriatric rocking chair, while Little Feat are long gone, with Lowell dying in 1979 at the age of 34.

The fantastic title track is said have inspired the Dixie Chicks, who took their name from the song. It rolls in on honky-tonk chords, those slide guitar notes, and Lowell George’s deliciously lazy slur of a vocal.

It’s a barroom tale. A man talks about his undying love for the woman he is going to spend the rest of his life with, only to find that – one by one – the other men in the bar have been fooled by the same Dixie Chicken.

As Bud Scoppa – what a name – wrote in his Rolling Stone review, each side of the album starts at full throttle, then subsides into something low-key. Side one goes from the throaty rattle of Dixie Chicken to the gentle Kiss It Off, while side two opens with the electric piano roll of Fool Yourself, then wraps up with the slide-guitar instrumental, Lafayette Road.

In between are songs to treasure: Fat Man In The Bathtub, with its “Oh Juanita” chorus, Two Trains and a cover of Allen Toussaint’s On Your Way Down.

All together now: “If you’ll be my Dixie chicken, I’ll be your Tennessee lamb/And we can walk together down in Dixieland…”

That song never fails to cheer me up, and that’s something worth having.

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