Recording information: The Shed Studios, Melbourne.
After 2012's lush Medicine Man, the Bamboos' de facto leader and chief songwriter Lance Ferguson decided to focus his attention on writing for the core group on Fever in the Road. Rather than a slew of guest vocalists, those chores have been equally divided between Kylie Auldist and Ella Thompson to excellent result; the group feels more like a touring unit than a studio construction. The basic sextet is appended by horns and strings in places, but the band's sound, though multi-textured, is more stripped and immediate. Co-produced by Ferguson and John Castle (who also worked on Medicine Man and plays guitar and other instruments), the real beauty of Fever in the Road is that virtually any track here is a potential single. Opener "Avenger" is the set's first. Fronted by Thompson, its rough-and tumble psych-pop is kissed by Baroque organ, spacey sunshine soul, and cracking drums, with a nice snare break tossed in for good measure. Auldist reveals the other side of the proposition with "Rats," a garagey, rave-up soul number with a swaggering guitar line that engages in call-and-response with the singer on the verse. Organs, bells, and a trumpet buoy the explosive chorus pulsed by the drumkit. "Your Lovin' Is Easy" is slippery '60s pop performed by Thompson, Ferguson, and Castle. Its rock trope gets slipped by the Motown-esque chorus. Stax-era soul is evoked in the gospel groove on "Truth," with Auldist in full, gritty wail pushed on by horns and strings. "Harbinger" is breezy, spacey pop. Thompson's breathy delivery is adorned by a tight, shuffling snare, two organs, guitars, pulsing bass, and shimmering violin and cello. "Jump My Train" is hard-strutting, B-3-drenched soul with clattering breaks, a thrumming bassline, and Auldist in full-throated scorch. The instruments, including punchy horns, electric piano, and chunky guitars, are put through just enough distortion to make it sound live. Fever in the Road presents the Bamboos as more electric and forceful on record. Though there is less production sheen here, great songs and energetic, truly inspired performances make them sound bigger and badder than ever. ~ Thom Jurek