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Illinois John Fever: Now Is Not the Way It Is

Posted by Kent Williams | Mar 29, 2010 | Album Reviews


Illinios John Fever
Now Is Not The Way It Is

Local Albums: March 2010 – Country Blues can really be a challenge for both performers and listeners. The basic musical gestures ossified into cliché 50 years ago, and it’s rare to find someone who can wring something new out of them. The only way it can work out is if you commit to it totally and keep doing it until you get it right. Now Is Not The Way It Is is exactly that–three guys getting it right.  

What makes boogies like “Monkeyhouse” and “The 4-12 March” work–aside from the sweet slide work and minimal drumming–is Lute Tucker’s ability to fuliminate and rage. I don’t even understand what he’s singing, but it’s great fun–street corner crazy-man ranting turned into hillbilly blues shouting. “Girl Needs A Bell” takes it down a notch in tempo and turns a single repeated major chord riff into five minutes of dreamy blues with the refrain “oh me oh my I got no me I got no mine.” What does it mean? You might as well ask what “I got a cow she won’t milk, I got a girl just the same” means. Tucker’s slurred, woozy delivery is perfectly effective at conveying mood, less so at objective meaning.

Illinois John Fever’s songs shamble along like a barefoot bum on the fourth day of a five-day drunk, but they’re never sloppy. They just relax into the groove so much they sound like they could take a nap without missing a beat. Their individual talents–which are considerable–notwithstanding, it’s the comfort and joy of their ensemble playing that makes Illinois John Fever masters of the boogie. 

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