Hillbilly Fever is a band I first became acquainted with during my brief career as a booking agent. When I began a working relationship with the group, they were in the early stages of their journey, figuring out who they were and where they wanted to go. With their first studio release, Lonesome, Hillbilly Fever has developed a refined yet strictly traditional sound.
Although Lonesome is the group’s first project recorded in a studio, it is not their first album. The band’s debut release was recorded in 2019 during a live performance in Ashe County, North Carolina. Since that project, the personnel has completely changed with the exception of banjo player Mark Krider. Along with Krider, Hillbilly Fever consists of Scott Norris on bass and lead vocals, Randy Pasley on dobro and baritone vocals, and Steve Harper on guitar. Cameron Owens also appears on this recording lending his mandolin picking and tenor vocals.
From the first note of Uphill Climb by Chris Jones, one can’t help but be captivated by the lead vocals of bassist Scott Norris. His powerful and distinctive voice really shines on this track, as well as Molly, written by Tim Massey.
Dobro player Randy Pasley is featured on the Josh Graves classic, Flatt Lonesome, and does a fine job staying true to Graves and his groundbreaking style. The project’s other instrumental, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, showcases Mark Krider’s Sonny Osborne-influenced banjo playing.
Two different songs from the repertoire of J.D. Crowe & the New South appear on this recording, Summer Wages and You Can Have Her. The former, sung by guitarist Steve Harper is not the strongest performance on this project, but nonetheless it’s still enjoyable. The latter is a straight ahead (no pun intended) performance that doesn’t stray too far from Crowe’s rendition of the song.
Lonesome shows Hillbilly Fever’s growth as a unit. When I first began working with them, I knew there was potential. With the right combination of players and singers, that potential has finally been unlocked. These five gentlemen have released a collection of songs that will satisfy any fan of traditional bluegrass music.