Artist/s: Mark Moldre (acoustic and electric guitars/percussion), Scott Hutchings (drums), Reuben Wills (double and electric bass), Adam Lang (lap slide/banjo), Jamie Hutchings (electric guitar/percussion). Produced by Jamie Hutchings.
Category: Contemporary, Country, Rock, Singer-songwriter
Label: Yellow Moon Records
Reviewed by Noel Mengel
“Hot band, great songs, top-shelf performances and some classic microphones too no doubt. But if it was as simple as that there would be more records as powerful as Fever Dreams.”
Recording technology has moved on considerably from that night in 1954 in Memphis when recording studio owner Sam Phillips cocked an ear to what a young singer and his band were fooling around with during a break and said, “What are you doing?”
“We don’t know,” was the reply from Elvis Presley.
“Whatever it is,” Phillips said, “Back up, find a place to start and do it again.”
The song was That’s All Right, a song by blues singer Arthur Crudup, delivered in exciting upbeat style by the raw young singer.
It’s wrong to say something new was begun, because blues musicians had been doing something of the kind for years, and artists from B.B. King to Ike Turner had recorded great music in that same room at Phillips’ studio. But a spark was captured that night and a fire would soon be spreading around the world.
Musicians have been looking for that spark, the thing that can happen when the red light is on and everything is on the line, ever since.
It’s difficult to put down in words exactly what that is but you know it when you hear it. And you are in no doubt Mark Moldre has found it on this sweaty, greasy and quite magnificent third solo album from the NSW-based songwriter.
This is music that breathes, that swings, that howls at the moon with a wild-eyed grin. How does it sound? At times, like Saturday night, back when Saturday nights really meant something, dancing to a juke box, a radio show or a band on the back of a truck. And sometimes like early Sunday morning, when most of the dancers have gone home and the band is playing soft and lonesome music for the broken-hearted. Themselves included.
“Live to tape” is not an experience many rock and pop musicians are familiar with in 2019, or even feel comfortable with. Doing it the way Muddy Waters did it in 1950, or Presley in 1954, or Patsy Cline in 1960, puts the players right under the microscope in an age when perfection often appears more highly prized in the recording studio than emotion and excitement. Take a listen to the top 40. A lot of perfection, not a lot of surprise.
As a musician myself I have worked live to tape on a pure analogue recording: live takes, no drop-ins for mistakes, no forgiveness if something is slightly off. Folks, it’s not as easy as it looks.
What is happening on Fever Dreams is a band at its hard-rocking peak, an outfit that has played together long enough to find their sonic groove, bringing the absolute maximum out of Moldre’s finest set of tunes.
As Moldre describes it: “The band almost creates its own genre somehow. We can play calypsos, country waltzes, standards, rock, blues, reggae, ballads and folk yet pull it all together into a sound.”
The album opens with Fever Dreams II, with stabs of ’60s-style organ before Moldre sets the tone of the album with lyrics that are haunted, anxious, uneasy. Bad things have happened, more are impending. The band rocks and rolls and a searing guitar break threatens to shred the speakers. Those who followed Fever Dreams producer Jamie Hutchings’ band Bluebottle Kiss will recognise the tone.
Leave Me Where You Found Me swings on the kind of riff that was the foundation of electric guitar bands beyond number, from Shaking All Over to The Who, and dips its hat to Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited along the way.
How Long? has some of the boneyard blues of Tom Waits and the call-and-response that has been at the heart of American music both sacred and profane, while the ghost of surf guitar legend Dick Dale inhabits the outlaw murder tale of ’Til Now.
The outlaw swagger of Keep on Moving has an unstoppable momentum as Hammond organ, lap steel and electric guitar trade knowing winks: “Daddy’s coming home,” Moldre sings, but the way he delivers it you’re not certain that’s a good thing.
And then there are the Sunday morning songs: the soul-baring ache of Josephine, the lonesome sax and regrets of the waltz-time Full Moon Over Luna Park, the chill wind and doubts of Peak Downs Coal.
Hot band, great songs, top-shelf performances and some classic microphones too no doubt. But if it was as simple as that there would be more records as powerful as Fever Dreams.
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