Fred Tackett’s moody Church Falling Down drops things back a couple of notches, with mandolin and understated vocals on an evocative gospel ballad about changing times that contrasts nicely with the earthier themes in the Payne/Hunter Salome, set in a Louisiana houseboat that serves as a whorehouse and dishes up soul food on the side. 

One Breath at a Time reworks the Fred Tackett solo version by splitting the vocal three ways, with Fred, Paul Barrere, and Sam Clayton going turn about through a ballad that has more than a dash of Mose Allison in the recipe.

The good time boogie comes to the fore in the Barrere/Bruton Just a Fever that grooves along merrily and is succeeded by a classic road song in Rag Top Down with Hunter’s highway imagery delivered by a warm Bill Payne vocal. There’s more of the same on Way Down Under (Payne/Hunter) while Paul Barrere rather than writer Fred Tackett gets the vocal slot on the wistful Jamaica Will Break Your Heart. Fred’s back in the limelight for Tattooed Girl, which shares much of the same mood as its predecessor and the blues are back for The Blues Keep Coming and Willie Dixon’s Mellow Down Easy, where a characteristically husky Sam Clayton vocal and some blues harp from ex-Fabulous Thunderbird Kim Wilson.

Considered as a whole Rooster Rag is another excursion through familiar territory with the regular Feat fusion of rock, blues, country, R&B and funky jazz with enough new elements (Hunter’s contribution being the prime example) to differentiate it slightly from what has gone before while retaining continuity. For mine, there’s no one else out there that sounds quite like the Feat and the production job from Bill Payne and Paul Barrere presents everything in a crisp, clear setting.

In the end, however, while it’s a rather tasty collection of fresh material there isn’t much that’s going to force many of what I’ve termed the night by night usual suspects out of the set lists. 

Which, from where I’m sitting, is fine. Dedicated fans attending concerts probably want to hear the obscurities or new material, which is understandable. Those with a nodding acquaintance with the band probably expect the usual suspects (particularly the one long term fans have been known to term That Damn Chicken Song) and anyone who isn’t too familiar with the extensive back catalogue probably needs to hear the tried and tested material that tends to make the strongest impression.

In the absence of a superannuation fund for working musos, efforts like Rooster Rag are a vital component in keeping it going and maintaining a degree of freshness. On that basis, I can heartily recommend it with the suggestion that, if you’re new to the Feat (and face it, they aren’t exactly a high profile outfit on the international stage these days, regardless of seventies muso peer acclamation) and Rooster Rag tickles your fancy you’ll find plenty to explore in that extensive back catalogue.

© Ian Hughes 2012