Charlie Feathers

Honky Tonk Man/New Jungle Fever

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Depending on who you ask, Charlie Feathers was either one of the great stylists of rockabilly or one of the true raving lunatics of the genre, and of course the qualities which inspired these judgments were in no way mutually exclusive. While Feathers' voice was capable of gracefully recreating all the trademark swoops, gulps and wails of classic rockabilly, he refused to be hemmed in by the conventions of the style; he could sing straight country in a manner that would make George Jones cry with envy, or he could let loose with guttural blues moaning that was positively lascivious -- and he would sometimes do a bit of both while making his way through something like "Working on a Building," as he does on this CD reissue of two EP's cut in the 1980s. Both Honky Tonk Man and New Jungle Fever were obviously recorded quickly on a low budget, and the production and accompaniment on these tracks leaves a great deal to be desired, but Feathers wails like a man possessed from front to back on this collection, even if he does sound as if he may have enjoyed a few too many cocktails as he throws shouts, squeals and whoops right and left like a boxer raining blows on a target he can't quite see. This material doesn't show Feathers at the top of his game, but despite the reduced circumstances of his career, these tracks find him full of fire and sonically unrepentant. His full-on covers of "Honky Tonk Man," "Blue Suede Shoes" and "He'll Have to Go" (the latter sounding like the weirdest pick-up line ever set to music) and gotta-hear-'em-to-believe-'em originals like "Jungle Fever" and "Who Da Say" were crafted by some sort of mutant visionary, and this is the work of a great lunatic stylist if there ever was such a thing.

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