As the story goes, Little Feat keyboardist Billy Payne was recording with Jimmy Buffett in 2004 when Buffet made a suggestion. Do a guest album. Not a tribute album, but Feat songs as well as others. Buffett offered to fly the band down to Shrimpboat Sound studios in Key West with hopes of locking down an all-star lineup to work on the album. The end result is the recently released Join the Band (429 Records), 15 tracks serving up Little Feat with a side of A-list talent. It opens with Dave Matthews doing “Fat Man in a Bathtub” with such commitment Payne says the singer was close to voiceless the next day. “He gave us like 19 takes and we were blown away,” Payne tells Rolling Stone.com. “It was awesome.” But Matthews overdid it and could barely sing the next night on Late Show With David Letterman. Judging from the sound of the album’s track vocals, a deep and throaty baritone rasp, it must have been the last take.
Vince Gill and Paul Barrere share the mike on “Dixie Chicken,” with Sonny Landreth on slide. Jimmy Buffett digs into “Time Loves a Hero” with natural ease, while Chris Robinson lends teeth-gnashing grit to “Oh Atlanta.” Emmy Lou Harris sweetens things up on “Sailin’ Shoes.” Brooks and Dunn do a croony “Willin'” Bela Fleck picks through “The Weight.” Phish’s Mike Gordon lends his bass playing on Woody Gutherie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Perhaps the most poignant track on the album is sung by the daughter of the late singer Lowell George. Inarna George, of the Bird and the Bee, pipes a lilting, heartbreaking rendition of “Trouble.” Meanwhile the band is continuing what seems like a never ending tour. “We love to play and we’re pretty good at what we do,” Payne says. “That definitely helps.”
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