(Originally published in the Beverly Citizen on April 23, 2015.)

As prodigious session musicians, Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett probably have closer to 1,000 than 100 credits between them. To the extent that either is particularly well known, however, it is as members of the influential and enduring rock band Little Feat, whom Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page called his favorite American group in a 1975 Rolling Stone interview.

Barrere joined the band after the 1972 release of Sailin’ Shoes and first appeared on 1973’s Dixie Chicken, which was one of several albums on which Tackett played without being an actual member. He officially joined Little Feat for the 1988 reunion album Let It Roll.


Little Feat’s early 1970s line-up.

While the résumés of Barrere and Tackett include some of the most noteworthy and popular artists of the past five decades, members of New Orleans Suspects can boast of having contributed to the indelible sounds of a handful of the Crescent City’s greatest music legends, including The Neville Brothers (drummer “Mean” Willie Green), the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (guitarist Jake Eckert), and The Radiators (bassist Reggie Scanlan), not to mention Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, and Professor Longhair.

Saxophonist Jeff Watkins cannot claim such Nola pedigree, but having spent a dozen years as the leader of James Brown’s band more than makes up for that. CR Gruver, meanwhile, is merely an extremely talented classically trained piano player who has the sound of The Big Easy down pat.

An occasion on which these two musical powers ended up in the same place would seem to be an instance of the proverbial meeting of an unstoppable force and an immovable object.

Well, this occasion happened on Saturday night, when Barrere, Tackett, and New Orleans Suspects converged on The Larcom Theatre.

The crowd was age-appropriate considering that the main selling point was the presence of members of a band whose first record came out in 1970. A few early arrivers reminisced of having seen Little Feat with founder Lowell George, who died in 1979 and who would have turned 70 this past Monday.

A woman wearing a T-shirt of the English band Blur’s 22-year old album Modern Life Is Rubbish may have qualified as representative of the younger contingent.

Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett took the stage together shortly after 8 p.m. with only a couple of Stratocaster guitars and a mandolin in tow.


Paul Barrere (left) and Fred Tackett

Their hour-long opening set consisted primarily of Little Feat songs that one or the other composed, including “Down On the Farm,” “All That You Dream,” “Clownin’,” and “Church Falling Down,” which Tackett wrote, sang, and played mandolin on.

They did not neglect Lowell George’s classics, however, tossing in “Sailin’ Shoes” – which Barrere said was his favorite Little Feat song – and “Willin’” back-to-back in the middle of the set.

Before closing with Barrere’s “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” they sang a bit of “Don’t Bogart Me” (aka, “Don’t Bogart That Joint”), which is best-known for its appearance in the 1969 film Easy Rider, and a medley of The Band’s “Long Black Veil” and “The Weight.”

After a 20-minute intermission, it was time for New Orleans Suspects. The quintet immediately shifted into high gear for the lengthy instrumental “Blackbird Special.” Most of the group’s songs included at least two solos, be they guitar and sax, keyboards and sax, or drums and guitar. (I do not seem to remember one by the modest but busy-fingered bassist.)


New Orleans Suspects

Each member received applause for his demonstrations of musical prowess before the songs were over. After the New Orleans Suspects captivated the Larcom crowd for almost an hour, Barrere and Tackett joined them for a 45-minute set of Little Feat numbers such as Barrere’s “Old Folks Boogie,” the Tackett-George composition “Honest Man,” and George’s “Fat Man In the Bathtub,” into which New Orleans Suspects expertly inserted a portion of Dr. John’s immortal “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” as the stage was bathed in the glow of red light.

The second set – during which focusing on any given performer would have provided an entire evening’s worth of entertainment – closed with the obligatory “Dixie Chicken,” after which all seven musicians returned for a two-song encore that showcased Fred Tackett’s trumpet-playing talents.

Overall, the performance was a labor of love for all of the players and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the audience. Those who infrequently attend live concerts will find nourishment enough in this one to hold them over until at least their next outing.


The 18 Interviews That I Did in 2013

Cheers to all of the nice folks who reminded me last year that there is no such thing as an uninteresting interview.


1. STEPHANIE SCHOROW, author of Drinking Boston (DigBoston, 1/18/13)

You also had, and this was starting in the later part of the 1900s, the emergence of immigrants – Irish immigrants – coming to this area, and the bar becoming a social place, where they hung out and mingled with their own people. You also had German immigrants, who settled and started a whole beer industry centered around the Stony Brook corridor.”

blog_Schorow2. AMY RIGBY and WRECKLESS ERIC (The Somerville Times, 1/27/13)

“The 80s was the worst thing that happened to Western civilization. It was the worst decade that ever happened. It was the most appalling time. People turned into money-grubbing materialistic idiots.”

Amy&Eric_pic_3. BRIAN E. KING of Parks (The Somerville Times, 2/3/13)

“I didn’t hear The Beatles until the year 2000, when I started playing bass. I’d heard of them but I’d never heard any of their songs.”

Photo by Liz McBride

Photo by Liz McBride/

4. PETER HOOK of Joy Division, New Order, and Peter Hook & The Light (DigBoston, 2/4/13)

“It took me years, actually, to admit to liking The Smiths. Until The Queen is Dead, I fucking hated them, for no other reason than that they were in competition with New Order … When I got to The Queen Is Dead, I heard that LP, I thought, ‘Ah shit, I can’t pretend I don’t like ‘em anymore!’ I had to give in.”

Dig_PeterHook5. THE GOOD AMERICAN, then-host of Zappa Thursdays (DigBoston, 2/5/13)

I had my own desk, and I had a boom box. The first album I played was Zappa’s Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar. I was lodged in between editorial and sales. They were trying to sell advertising and here I am blaring Frank Zappa.”

zappa thursdays6. BRIAN JOYCE, host of “Live & Local” in Chattanooga, TN (The Somerville Times, 2/13/13)

“For this part of the country, you can be considered a flaming liberal just by admitting, ‘Obama, I think, is American’.”

Brian_Joyce_27. JORDAN JEFFARES of Snowden (DigBoston, 2/18/13)

“I would argue that No One In Control has an anti-authoritarian thing about it, which is optimistic. Actually, that song is about a horrible crazy girlfriend.”

Dig_Snowden_6008. MICHAEL MURRAY of Tsoysli and Nowhere Lights (The Somerville Times, 3/16/13)

“We’re recording it at a studio in Winchester that we have access to where David Hasselhoff used to record.”

Mike_Murray_pic9. BOW THAYER of Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck (DigBoston, 4/24/13)

“The record is trying to say something. It is a kind of apocalyptic yet hopeful theme. It’s kind of a snapshot of our society’s self-inflicted wounds.”

Bow_Thayer_60010. SUSAN OSTRANDER, author of Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City: Somerville, MA (The Somerville Times, 5/18/13)

“People across the board appreciated the benefits of gentrification at the same time as they saw its dangers, and some of the newer more affluent residents were well aware that they were both contributing to some extent to the dangers and well as wanting to make more positive contributions to their chosen home city.”

Ostrander_Book11. SYD STRAW (The Somerville Times, 6/6/13)

“I feel lonesome for my own songs.”

Syd Straw12. ROD ARGENT of The Zombies (DigBoston, 7/5/13)

“Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters last year on a Scandinavian television show was asked, ‘What is the track that changed your life?’ And he thought about it and he chose ‘Care of Cell 44’ from Odessey and Oracle.”

Argent_Blunstone_60013. DICK LEHR, co-author of Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss (DigBoston, 8/19/13)

“He’s very self-disciplined in not being an excessive drinker and in being fit. He’s very food-conscious in a way that’s almost unthinkable in the underworld.”

Book 'Em_DickLehrBulger

14. SLAID CLEAVES (Marblehead Reporter, 9/3/13)

“In the early ‘90s, when I was looking for a place to start my career, Boston seemed to me to be totally overwhelmed by the loud and ironic and angst-y kind of college radio.”

Cleaves Picture15. STEVE BAGLIONI of The SpiritHouse Band (Beverly Citizen, 9/18/13)

“My goal is to play in front of 30,000 people, on a sunny day, with beach balls bouncing, and the sun shining, and people just having an amazing, amazing musical experience wherever we are that we’re playing.”

Baglioni_116. CONNIE MORELLA, former U.S. Congresswoman from Maryland (The Somerville Times, 10/17/13)

“I think the nice way to put it was to say ‘a moderate Republican,’ but I really tended to be more on the liberal side. Maybe that’s a part of Massachusetts in me!”

C_Morella 1980 417. CHRIS WILSON of The Flamin’ Groovies (The Somerville Times, 11/13/13)

“One of the most horrible things I’d ever seen was Johnny Ramone coming backstage after their set covered in spit. People had spit all over them, and he was in tears.”

Chris Wilson last on right

The Flamin’ Groovies (l to r): George Alexander, Victor Penalosa, Cyril Jordan, and Chris Wilson

18. JUDE MORAN of Adela & Jude (The Somerville Times, 12/22/13)

“We’ve felt that a wonderful way to celebrate these communities is to document our travels, and make a commitment to feeding ourselves on the food we get donated by farmers. In this way, we can showcase the vibrancy of local farms and markets.”