Wow. Well if you head isn’t already spinning from the caliber of recent REAL country music releases, it will be now. Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours team up with the legendary Wayne “The Train” Hancock for an old school comic book style dynamic duo one two punch to the gut of mainstream pop country frappety crap! This is country music for the rest of us. This is music for the folks that “get it.” Hillbilly Fever is sick. It’s the disease you need, so catch it, and then spread it like a bad rash!
With Hillbilly Fever Lucky keeps his tradition alive of making very traditional-sounding albums, and that’s why inviting Wayne Hancock on for a couple of tracks makes perfect sense. Yeah the spoon fed will spit this out as being “too hokey” but who needs them and their GAP reproduction pearl snaps made in China? Feed ’em fish heads, this is country music the way we like it.
Lucky starts off with an original called “Ramblin,” which despite the “Rambin’ Man” wishing well being tapped so many times in music Steve Martin parodied it no less than 35 years ago, this song still works on me.
“Well I’ve been a rambin’, I’ve been a gamblin’
Walking the blade of a double edged knife
8 stale Cheetos, half dead burritos
Drinkin’ beer for breakfast just to stay alive.”
“Ramblin” sets the table for what is an album with very smart and tasteful arrangement, and hits the bulls-eye when it comes to setting the tempo. Subtle organ makes a soft bed for the song and drives home the rhythm at the end of phrases, while Casey “The Barber” Gill’s thumping standup is like a pacemaker for the easy-living country heart.
Just like Lucky’s last one, this album features songs from the Tubb bloodline. Glenn Tubb, maybe one of the most prolific and underrated songwriters of all time, contributes “You Sure Look Lonesome,” and “Tired of What You Don’t Do,” and Talmage chimes in with “Blue Monday Blues.” Listening to these songs I am reminded that Lucky is not just a fresh character in the underground country scene, he is also the latest, if not last in the Tubb country music lineage to carry a banner that honestly is not ballyhooed near enough.
There’s also plenty of reminders that this isn’t just Lucky, but a fully stocked tank of talent behind him in the Troubadours. Natalie Page writes and sings “Honky Tonkin’ Is All We Got,” which despite its retro setting, carries an all too modern theme about being in a fun relationship with no soul, but sung by Natalie with soul aplenty. I also can’t say enough about Casey Gill on bass, who is true soul of the band.
The Wayne Hancock duet’s of the old George Vaughn tune “Hillbilly Fever” and the Lucky/Hancock co-written “West” make this album worth ponying up for if nothing else does. Sure there’s the oddity of the two artists collaborating, but the collaboration just works. Some may think since both artist work in traditional ways, what’s the difference? “West” really points that out the differences as it bridges the two styles, with the bass line and lyrics more like a Hancock song than one by Lucky.
Sure, the average consumer couldn’t tell the difference. But like a seasoned bird watcher who appreciates the subtleties between the male and female of a species, watching the two artists bridge styles, Hancock’s being more Hank Williams blended with Texas swing, and Lucky’s being more Tubby/Lefty/Hank Snow mix, is exciting for all of us old school fogey fools born in the wrong era. Hancock is solid as always, and after touring with Hank III last year and now this album, Lucky has officially courted two of the three names that in the early oughts made the triumvirate of REAL country, Dale Watson being the last to tackle.
My favorite songs on the album, just like on his last album Damn The Luck, are the tunes that Lucky wrote himself. “Ramblin” and “Not At All,” are the standouts for me. Lucky has a unique cadence and delivery of his lyrics that is most present when you see him live, and when he sings his own songs. That vocal delivery is really what sets him apart, and is his unique talent.
The production by James Stevens is excellent, but there were a few times I thought it was a little heavy handed, with some of the backing vocals and with the weird chorus-like moaning on “You Sure Look Lonesome.”
Also as I was nearing the end of this album, I was thirsting for some more variety. Well right on cue Lucky delivers a shot right out of left field with the ghost track that I’m told by my insiders is called “Rain.” This is a super cool Tom Waits-esque shift in gears that adds a whole new dynamic to Lucky, and this album. Alone the song maybe apes Waits more that being Lucky’s take on his style, but as a hidden track, I give it more latitude. Put this song in the middle of the album and it goes over like a poop in a punch bowl. Bury it at the end, and it completes it.
His last album Damn The Luck I thought had a few better songs, but I think this is a better album.
GET THE HILLBILLY FEVER !!
Hillbilly Fever is exclusively available through lonestarmusic.com. You can purchase it and preview tracks by CLICKING HERE.