Southern Hospitality

Southern Hospitality
Easy Livin’

Blind Pig Records

By Tony Del Rey
June 2013

There’s no accounting for changing musical tastes. How else to explain the punk and the burgeoning disco scene of the 1970s sounding the death knell for once-mighty rock groups like Led Zeppelin and others like them? Yet through this shifting landscape the music of the South has always remained: funky, loose-grooved blues/rock played by bands not necessarily indigenous to the area, but strongly influenced by its homespun charm and back woods vernacular.

What is there, then, to dissuade a trio of young bluesmen calling themselves Southern Hospitality, from embarking on a collaborative effort celebrating this distinctly American music and the region from which it hails?

Their new disc, Easy Livin’ exudes the kind of laid-back, rolling boogie style that LA band, Little Feat embodied at the height of their cultish fame in the 1970s. So enamored are SH guitarists Damon Fowler and JP Sloan with Lowell George (1945 – 1979), the former Feat front man and slide virtuoso, that even the album’s cover art pays homage to the Feat’s 1978 double live long-player, Waiting For Columbus.

Though Easy Livin’ may be the disc’s title, its basic theme is anything but. The songs are largely about restlessness – the kind that comes with a life spent on the road. Much like Little Feat’s oeuvre, there’s a traveling feel to these songs. In fact, several of them share instrumentation and tonality with some of Feat’s better-known tunes, as well as neighboring rhythm patterns and arrangements.

The album’s opener, “Southern Livin,” is a good case in point. A group effort written and sung in turns by Fowler, Sloan and keyboardist Victor Wainwright, this pure country rocker bears all the earmarks of Little Feat’s sound: Ritchie Hayward’s patented behind-the-beat drumming, Bill Payne’s Joplinesque piano movements and, of course, Lowell George’s signature slide work. The tune itself is reminiscent of “Fat Man in the Bathtub,” but its lyrics echo the down-home sentiment of “Sailin’ Shoes,” with lines like, “Gonna grab my fishin’ pole and catch me somethin’ to eat,” sung in the folksy argot of the deep South.

The fact that Fowler, Sloan and Wainwright possess the chops to draw such comparisons is a testament to their talent as musicians both individually and collectively.

However, much like Easy Livin’s cover art, there’s not much originality to it. The album’s remaining cuts are tuneful, but woefully one-dimensional, appropriating elements of Little Feat’s sound but neglecting to cycle through the harmonic paces that made their music great (which, ironically, has been Little Feat’s affliction in the post-Lowell George era). I have little doubt that Southern Hospitality would make a kick-ass cover band.

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