Little Feat | Sam’s Place – New Studio Release Review

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When it comes to Little Feat’s Sam’s Place, their first new studio album in 12 years, there are a lot of firsts. It’s the first blues album by the group. It’s the first to feature guitarist Scott Sharrard and drummer Tony Leone. And it’s the first with Sam Clayton handling lead vocals on every song.

The band’s conga player since 1972, Clayton sang background vocals on most of Little Feat’s albums from the 70s. In more recent times, he’s stepped out front, so it only makes sense he gets his shot at carrying a whole album. Brought to life by a stellar lineup that also includes keyboardist Bill Payne, guitarist Fred Tackett, and bassist Kenny Gradney, Sam’s Place apprises the purity and value of one of America’s finest rock and roll bands.

The album was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, except for the live version of  “Got My Mojo Working,” captured during one of the band’s shows in late 2022. Though the nine songs are mostly covers by the likes of Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, “Milkman,” the opening track, was penned by Clayton (with lyrics by his wife Joni), Tackett, and Sharrard. It’s an easy-going blues-and-brass-soaked number that suitably sets the pace for what’s to follow.

A swift run-through of Willie Dixon’s “You’ll Be Mine” measures up to Little Feat standards. Clayton’s interpretation of the two Muddy Blues songs are also definite stand outs. A duet with Bonnie Raitt on “Long Distance Call” catches the spark of the spirit, while a rollicking bounce through “Can’t Be Satisfied,” long a staple on the band’s setlist, lifts Clayton’s bluesy roar to new heights. The song also finds Payne at his very best, driving the tempo with his mad chops on the piano while Michael “The Bull” LoBue cushions the corners with his harmonica.

Clayton owns the melody on Little Walter’s “Last Night,” which is dedicated to the late Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes fame. Bobby Charles’ Cajun-flavored “Why People Like That” chugs along to a slab of tasty slide work from Sharrard that dutifully complements Clayton’s throaty vocals. It may take the live version of Preston Foster’s notorious “Got My Mojo Working” to convince any doubters in the room to appreciate the vocals, the players, and everything good and magical about Little Feat. This is the band operating to the max, fueled on adrenaline, sweat, and love for the blues.

While Little Feat continue touring the States, Sam’s Place is a great reminder of just how great they still are in the studio. Sharrard and Leone both sing with the band, so perhaps there’s a song or two they could sing on the next record. Of course, whatever else Clayton, Payne, Tackett, and Gradney bring to the table is even better. With Little Feat, one can never get enough of what each player adds to their unique elixir of sound and symmetry.

~ Shawn Perry

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