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Swampy Bluesy Rhythms with Paul Barrere of Little Feat

(Left to right) Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett of Little Feat will be hitting the stage for an intimate performance at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth on Saturday, March 22
(Left to right) Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett of Little Feat will be hitting the stage for an intimate performance at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth on Saturday, March 22
Courtesy of Flying Monkey/Paul Barrere

"PLYMOUTH — Little Feat is known for its swampy bluesy rhythms, provocative lyrics, lengthy jams and longevity with a revolving cast of characters.

On Saturday, guitarists Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett will bring that distinctive sound to the Flying Monkey as part of their acoustic duo.

“Come on out and have a good time,” Barrere said in an interview with The Citizen on Monday. “In fact, we guarantee a good time.”

Barrere has played guitar for Little Feat since 1972, just three years after the band was founded by Bill Payne and the late Lowell George. He grew up in Los Angeles, attending Hollywood High School with George. Barrere explained that his older brother, who was a drummer, was a close friend of George’s and he watched him start the band The Factory. George was also a member of Frank Zappa’s band “The Mothers of Invention,” but left to start Little Feat after writing the song “Willin.’”

Little Feat was founded in 1969 and released two records before bassist Roy Estrada decided to leave to join Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band. In 1972 the band got back together and added Barrere as a second guitarist. This lineup went on to put out two of the band’s most popular albums, “Dixie Chicken” in 1973 and “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” in 1974.

Barrere said that he had jammed out with George in the past, and he took him to a studio when Barrere was 18-year-old where he played a demo of a song he wanted to record along with the legendary Dr. John.

“That was really the first time we ever actually played together,” Barrere said, referring to his playing with George. “It was like a garage band, and Lowell thought we were great, and that was pretty much what landed me the job. He liked my sensibility of music and my off the wall lyrics.”

Barrere grew up listening to folk music, and when he first started playing guitar he was inspired by Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. His interests eventually turned into electric blues as he was watching bands like the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds bring blues back into rock and roll.

He also said that he was interested in Mo Town music and early Rhythm and Blues, with Barrere stressing that he meant old R&B, not what it is today. He said that he loved the music of Fats Domino and Little Richard.

“I loved anything with a beat to it, if you will,” Barrere said. “By the time I got involved with Little Feat, I was deeply entrenched in the blues and old R&B.”

Barrere is credited for many Little Feat classics such as “Time Loves a Hero,” “Skin it Back,” and “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.” His favorite song that he plays with Little Feat is “All That You Dream,” he said. He said that this was because it has a lot of pop appeal to it, with a groove that was based on Al Green’s style. But he said that once drummer Richie Hayward “sank his teeth into anything” it got that Little Feat vibe.

With more than 40 years of performing, Barrere said that it is tough to pick out just one show that he thought was the epitome of Little Feat’s career. However, he said that one thing that stands out in his mind was the Warner Brothers Music Show in 1975. He explained that Little Feat, along with six other bands that included the Doobie Brothers, was paid by the Warner Brothers Recording Company to tour Europe.

“We opened for the Doobies in London in an afternoon show, and we just killed it,” Barrere said. “It was like we could do no wrong, you know? For some reason we were really just clicking.”

Barrere said that it was an exciting time for the band, as they had been talked up in the British press because members of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were vocal about how much they liked Little Feat and how unique they were as a group.

George died in 1979 and the band took time to do work on solo projects until 1987 when they got back together with a few new faces, including Tackett who plays a myriad of instruments including guitar and trumpet. Barrere said that after Lowell passed away, he never thought that they would get back together.

But one day he got a call from a studio manager who was naming a rehearsal room after George and he wanted Little Feat to come back and “christen the studio” by jamming out. It was a rehearsal room in Los Angeles in a place he called “The Alley.”

Barrere said that what happened was amazing, and they all realized that they had not only gotten better at their instruments, but they still connected well as a band.

“It was kind of a fluke that we got back together, but we had so much fun,” Barrere said. “The sound was still there and it just kind of snowballed from that point. We promised ourselves the songs would still be equal if not better than what we had done before.”

The duo of Tackett and Barrere has been going on for the past 15 years, and Barrere said that it is a blast for them because they get to play in smaller venues that Little Feat could never have played in.

He said that he loves playing in huge venues like The Gorge in Washington, but that playing more intimate scenarios like the Flying Monkey has perks of its own. He said that the best small venue he has played in was a 17th century church in Bristol, England, where he said the acoustics were so good that he could have played without a microphone.

Barrere explained that they got contracted with Gibson 15 years ago to play, and it all started when he was asked to open for Johnnie Lee Hooker and then play a stint in Japan.

“It just kind of took off from there,” Barrere said. “It’s worked out very well for us. I really like playing the performing arts centers and smaller venues because they normally have a great sound acoustically. But I’ll play anywhere from arenas to living rooms in Scotland.”

Little Feat is currently on hiatus, as Barrere has battled health issues of late. He explained that his treatments have been going well, but for now there is no immediate plan to get back together with the band.

“I’ve been home now for nearly a year, and for some reason Little Feat just never wanted to go and just do weekends,” Barrere said. “At this point, being close to 66, I like traveling light and not having a big to do. I just like to have fun and play. But we’ll see where life takes us. I’m certainly not closing any doors, that’s for sure.”

Barrere and Tackett will be playing at The Flying Monkey on Saturday night.

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NOTE: This article was published in the Laconia Citizen. The following was not included due to space, but I thought it was a pretty cool piece--

Barrere said that at Little Feat shows, as well as the duo of him and Tackett, there are always new fans and old fans alike. He said that other bands, such as Phish who covered the album “Waiting for Columbus” as part of its Halloween show in 2010, have also played their material and have opened things up to new fans. In particular, he noted that Phish have always spoken highly of Little Feat being a revolutionary jam band, and have used their songs regularly in their repertoire.

Barrere said that he was impressed with Phish’s take on their live album, and said that he listened to it while watching the World Series in 2010. He was told several weeks before by the band that they would be covering the iconic album, and Barrere said that as always, Phish did it a justice. He was particularly impressed that Phish not only covers the album, but had the interest of exactly how they created their songs through specific pieces of equipment.

“It was funny, just before Halloween I started getting these cryptic phone calls from Mr. Gordon who was asking me all kinds of questions about what pedals we were using and so on,” Barrere said, referring to Phish bassist Mike Gordon who is also playing at the Flying Monkey on March 29. “It was interesting and then I found out a couple weeks before that they were going to play the album. I thought they did a great job. They’ve always been a big boost for us.”