Illinois John Fever

Illinois John Fever
Now is Not the Way It Is

Ralston Creek Records

By Georgetown Fats
April 2010

Due to an East Coast bias, Iowa always felt like a flyover area on the way to other blues hot spots. With acts like Illinois John Fever residing in Iowa, and receiving considerable positive press, it is clear the Corn Belt has a burgeoning blues scene.

Illinois John Fever, consisting of Lute Tucker's vocals and guitar, Bobber Hall on percussion and Dustin Busch on dobro, are a three piece pre-war blues act played with a punk rock intensity. Lo-fi in nature, Illinois John Fever characterize their sound as “apocalypse blues hillbilly disco punk hop”, and the sound is somewhere between a band of hardcore punks and members of The Violent Femmes playing music of the old medicine show days.

From the opening track “Monkeyhouse”, it is clear Illinois John Fever’s sound is original. Vocalist Lute Tucker’s vocal tone is reminiscent of Gordon Gano busking out field hollers. On the first listen it was jarring but Tucker quickly wins the listener over by making his vocals part of the song rather than a melody on top of the music. Tucker’s nimble work on his guitar matches his vocal styling; every note is used to propel an irrepressibly danceable groove.

On “Girl Needs a Bell”, percussionist Bobber Hall virtually stops stomping on and whacking everything within reach of his blast sticks, allowing for some of Dustin Busch’s dobro work to show through. Even with the slower and less bombastic nature of the other IJF tunes on the disk, Tucker’s percussive rhythm on the acoustic guitar still creates a danceable track.

My personal favorite of Now is Not the Way It Is is “Keep Ta Boogie In Ye Like”. Hall’s percussion work is nothing short of primal, Busch’s dobro is brought out more in the mix for color and Tucker’s acoustic guitar work churns out an explosive groove.

It may have something to do with the irradiated corn kernels loose in Des Moines, or it may have to do with punks getting their hands on music by Bukka White and Fred McDowell, but if the future of blues is represented by Illinois John Fever’s lo-fi punk and acoustic blues, it is in very good hands.

“Now is Not the Way It Is” is available through CD Baby or available directly through the band via their Facebook and Myspace pages.

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