J.J. Cale backed by Little Feat? It sounds like an odd combination—laid-back frontman meets swampy, eclectic backup group—but that’s exactly what you think of upon a listen to this New Orleans band’s debut. The only surprise is that the easygoing lead vocals and the blazing slide guitar both come from the same guy, Brian Rueb, who is also Coot’s main songwriter and, along with guitarist/keyboardist Hirsh Katzen, plays many of the instruments.
From the Bo Diddley beat on opener “Born to Win,” the sound of the disc is cozy and familiar—if you didn’t know better, you’d swear it was recorded four decades ago, before Eric Clapton started selling beer and “mellow” stopped being a compliment. A song like “Bayou Girls” doesn’t say anything new—those girls’ praises have been sung plenty already—but it says something old in an appealing enough way, with a washboard just when you’d expect to hear one. And the banjo-driven “Pickup Truck” offers a novel reason to appreciate those vehicles: They have plenty of space to hide your dope when the cops pull you over.
Because Rueb’s voice is naturally low-key, the album works best when the band throws in enough grit for balance. “Touch” has an interesting Dire Straits-like arrangement (with the addition of that old prog rock standby, the mellotron), and lends a darker touch to a generally good-natured album. Closing track “Into the Cut” ends with a guitar jam that’s the loudest thing on the record, fading out too soon at six minutes. If Neil Young can get away with doing this for 27 minutes, Coot could have done it for a few more.