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Robert Shafer

Hillbilly Fever – 1997 (Upstart)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Robert Shafer

Fans of the late Danny Gatton can expect a pleasant surprise from the clean, precise Telecaster stylings of the Washington, D.C.-based Shafer, who provides much the same nitro-powered kick in the pants to a mixture of rockabilly, country, blues, and jazz that Gatton (a close friend) gave to startled listeners when he first emerged from the southeastern bar scene in the seventies.

The record opens with Shafer's tributes to three of his musical heroes: a cover of Carl Perkins's "Dixie Fried," Tim Carroll's "Beam Me Up, Scotty Moore," and Head, Hands, and Feet's "Just Another Ambush," the original version of which featured the guitar work of Albert Lee. Indeed, Lee's shadow looms long and large over much of the album, as does the influence of James Burton.

If a single criticism springs to mind it's that the lead vocals of Don Dixon - a fine solo artist and producer in his own right - has a smoky voice that's well-suited to blues and pop, but somewhat less well-suited to the rockabilly and country numbers here. That said, it's a minor complaint. "Hillbilly Fever" is a fine release from a world-class guitarist, of whom much more is certain to be heard in the future.