Any CD that cheekily starts with the signature cracklenpop of a needle hitting vinyl has got my attention. In fact this same attention lasts an entire 50mins as this Brisbane two-piece conjures sweaty musicianship with a far darker and echoed lustre akin to Mark Lanegan jamming with Buddy Guy after a close-call with zombies in New Orleans. In fact its the seedy undercarriage of the songwriting that sets this apart from the guitar and drums club of Mess Hall, Black Keys, White Stripes et al. Apart of the US-friendly vocal delivery, these guys offer an authentic slap of grime, mud and hopeless regret within their twang and thud. Its refreshingly bleak, mysteriously accomplished (these guys are masters of restraint well beyond their vintage) and comfortably confident. Airplay beckons but probably not in their own country as theyre just a little too good.

Debut CD for the Brisbane duo, and it is brimming with dirty, swampy blues. It is so raw at times you can hear the blood. Shane Hick’s vocals are perfect for this – gruff, nasty and full of dread, and with lyrics like “Late at night she will feed, and won’t rest till she’s picked my bones clean”, you better worry. ‘Blackwater’ races along behind the relentless stomp of the drums, and the guitar gets tortured to an itch of its life. But it is not all ‘in-your-face’. The title track smolders then burns under the duo’s weight. That said, it is when they kick the heifer in the arse with tracks like ‘Lovesick’ that The Blackwater Fever really shine (in a dirty way).

While most of us may view blues as one of those dusty old toys that you keep in the attic and only bring out long enough to show it off to your friends, The Blackwater Fever is a whole new breed. This two-piece band, originating in Brisbane, has struggled to the top with their new release, Sweet Misery, is unlikely to relinquish their root. Their gritty, garage blues sound is only enhanced by vocalist/guitarist Shane Hicks’ guttural and heartbroken howl.

The songs featured on Sweet Misery vary from upbeat blues-rock to the laid-back blues that started everything off. Such tracks as Back For You and Better Off Dead have that blues sound that is both disgruntled and filled such emotion that you can’t help but wonder what all of it is directed at. In contrast, songs such as Blackwater and Crawlin’ Skin bring you into the garage-blues that most defines Blackwater Fever. Upbeat and gritty, these songs pull the album together and show listeners that this band isn’t going to that crap from anyone.

The title track Sweet Misery has an eerie feel that is so dark and, or a lack of a better word, visual, that you feel as though you yourself have travelled down some back road and found yourself is a shanty town built up years ago and long forgotten. Their song Lovesick is easily noted as either a respectful nod to their predecessors the White Stripes, or a blatant backhanded slap to the two-piece replicas that can’t seem to come up with an original thought of their own. Regardless of which way it was intended, Lovesick is a fast paced, incredibly original and catchy song that scream to be listened to.

Regardless of the music, the presentation alone of the album is inspired. The CD itself has been made up to resemble a record, side A if you will, and the songs have been laid out as though the music were originally put on record and then recorded digitally for the final production. At the beginning and halfway through the album as the introduction and interlude that seem to have gone missing in our digital age. While they aren’t required listening. They still provide a breather so you can take everything in before being blown away yet again. All together, the album is a great piece that anyone who still enjoys a good blues album is sure to lap up.

If tonight’s Zoo bill were a movie, it would be called The Return Of Rock, pt.2. Having first seen openers The Blackwater Fever a couple months ago, I am pleased to suffice that the local garage-blues duo rock harder than ever. Singer Shane Hicks’ hoary voice and raggedy-arse riffs are offset by primal drumbeats, while songs from lauded LP Sweet Misery cut like a knife. The Black Keys, we’ve got one on you.

Brisbane’s own The Blackwater Fever are, unfortunately, always going to be a target for the Two-Piece Backlash – pretty much every duo since The White Stripes has had to deal with the stigma of not coming up with the one-guitar-vocals-drums first. Big whoop. Fact of the matter is two-pieces have to work harder than their larger counterparts to be both engaging for a crowd and to flesh out their songs, and Blackwater handle these tasks with bombast and aplomb. Kicking off with a Lanegan-esque intro before launching into thundering theme song ‘Blackwater’, Sweet Misery’s most obvious strong points are both its energy and gritty-yet-perfect production, while vocalist/guitar man Shane Hicks has a throaty roar and a guitar tone that’d make The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach shit. ‘Good Night Darling, Sweet Dreams’ and ‘Better Off Dead’ prove the fellas can handle the sultrier end of blues, as well as showing off Andrew Walter’s seismic drumming. The title track crops up at the end of “Side A”; a haunting country-flavoured tune laced with violin and wandering boldly into 16 Horsepower territory, before the second half of the album begins with a spaghetti western instrumental. And then it’s off again into the storm of floor tom beats that is ‘Lovesick’. Across much of the album there’s a dark river of vitriolic rock’n’roll; when it lets up for the sensitive stuff, such as ‘Red’, the grit doesn’t fade away, nor does Hicks’ voice fail to measure up. Forget preconceived ideas about what two people in a rock band can achieve: Sweet Misery can bury albums by bands with three times as many members. Rock’n’roll at its best.

Too often, the blues is wheeled out like a dusty old museum piece. Someone, often a genteel white guy, will don a guitar, play a twelve bar progression with a technically proficient blues-wank solo, and say, ‘Look, this is where rock ‘n’ roll came from’. Often that person’s name is Eric Clapton, and he will say, ‘I was in Cream, remember; I used to be God’. But what the Claptons of the world forget is that blues is all about atmosphere and raw passion, and Tsunami favourites The Blackwater Fever have nailed both on their debut longplayer. With its vinyl crackle and staticy interjections of preachers and the like, ‘Sweet Misery’ sounds like The Blackwater Fever have trawled the mythic swamps of the Mississippi to find the music’s primordial essence, filtered it through a sieve of the Fat Possum Records back catalogue, and cooked it all up on an alternative rock griddle to create something that is truly their own. ‘Sweet Misery’ is that rarest of things: a tough, passionate garage blues album that is satisfying from beginning to end even after the umpteenth listen, with barnstorming rockers like ‘Blackwater’ and ‘Lovesick’ working perfectly alongside sludgy lurchers like ‘Good Night Darling, Sweet Dreams’ and the brooding slow-burn of the title track. It’s a song typical of the rough edges and simmering ambience of the album, as Shane Hicks’s gruff voice and guitar-picking ride Andrew Walter’s slithering cymbal rolls and the violin rasp of guest player Alex Archer (Kill Devil Hills) into a sweat-drenched, malarial dream of fuzzy guitar and elemental rhythms. The Blackwater Fever have seen where the blues began, they know where it’s been, and because they treat it like the breathing, dangerously-alive entity that it is, they are also part of where it’s going.
9/10 – STROM

Not for a while has an album title summed up the content so well. I always wondered if two-piece bands are only two-piece bands they have no other friends, but really, Brisbane boys The Blackwater Fever don’t need any other friends. And don’t be expecting no White Stripes imitation – this is dirty swamp slide-guitar blues, growling and barking at you, trying to bite your hand off as Shane Hicks warbles with a distinct Eddie Vedder vibe. You should be sweating heavily and drinking JD when you listen to this. I’m going to grab my twelve-bore and shoot me some alligators.

A fair bit of sound coming from two blokes!
Local gents Shane Hicks and Andrew Walter are in keeping with the very popular roots music set-up of the last 10 years or so, operating as a guitar/drums power blues duo. Guitarist Hicks is also a suitably gravelly vocalist, while drummer Walters can lay down everything from old-fashioned garage kit thrashing to more minimalist, skeletal rhythms for the album’s darker, slower tracks. And, yes, if you like Black Keys, there are enough raw blues rock numbers to keep you satiated – so that’s a fuzz pedal tick of approval for Blackwater, Crawlin’ Skin and the barnstorming Lovesick. They are similarly adept at slower jams, like the churning Good Night Darling Sweet Dreams and the gothic, cello-enhanced ballad Sweet Misery. And while fans of other immensely successful two-piece roots rock outfits will find much to love here, The Blackwater Fever also possess an impressive sonic fullness, a dramatic cinematic sweep and even a dose of glam rock stomp to create what is ultimately a sound all their own.

The Blackwater Fever open with a barrage of no-nonsense electric blues, driven by the seething growl and punching riffs of bearded guitarist/vocalist Shane Hicks. Every note Hicks wrenches from his guitar is more muscle-bound than Arnie himself, with particular standouts coming with ‘Blackwater’ and ‘Crawlin’ Skin’. The tempo – but not the intensity – drops with ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ and ‘Sweet Misery’, before they close with ‘Better Off Dead’ which again features superb slide work from Hicks.

Tuesday night gigs are always weird. It’s simply hard to get into the mood with so much of the working week remaining. But locals The Blackwater Fever went quite a distance towards helping to ease the mid-week blues with their own entertaining blend. The duo was obviously rapt to be on the large Tivoli stage, with their dark garage blues going down well with the genre-favourable crowd. You would expect they would have picked up a new swarm of fans with their entertaining set.

First cab off the rank tonight, The Blackwater Fever did their best to convince us that they were not simply The Black Keys version 2.0, and it worked. Despite the fact that they resemble the headliners in both instrumentation (drummer Andrew Walter and guitarist/vocalist Shane Hicks) and dark bluesy-vibe, as their name suggests, there is a more tormented, often feverish element that sets the pair apart, providing early punters with a tight set of gritty blues-rock.

Playing some of the dirtiest blues in the business, ex-Sunshine Coasters The Blackwater Fever couldn’t be more at home than here in the grand ole’ Tivoli, playing in support of the world’s premier exponents of the blues-duo genre. They grind through a short set including the faster Blackwater and finish with a palpable anger in Better Off Dead.

“Before we find out we’re treated to a brilliant opening set by Brisbane-via-Sunshine Coast garage blues duo The Blackwater Fever. Led by the unbelievably guttural, heartbroken howl of vocalist/guitarist Shane Hicks, the band deliver stomping blues with ‘Blackwater’ and ‘Back For You’.”

As a generous number of patrons had settled in, the night’s only support, The Blackwater Fever, began their set of delta blues-inspired rock. With lead singer Shane Hicks delivering each song with a deep, gravelly howl, as if possessed by the spirit of Ben Ottewell via Tom Waits, and drummer Andrew Walter backing him up with his classy drumwork, this local dark, garage blues band ensured none who had entered the venue were subject to any reprieve from their gloomy, atmospheric southern stylings.

With tracks off their Abused Blues EP and their upcoming Sweet Misery record providing the crux of their set-list, the two-piece provided the crowd with a true raw essence which contrasted greatly with the main act’s known antics. Tracks Shakin’ All Over and Better Off Dead garnered the most praise, however the whole set afforded the audience with solid, ballsy blues ballads and a gritty start to the night’s proceedings.

Grotty blues outfit The Blackwater Fever hook their instruments directly into the brain’s most primal pleasure centres as they churn out a solid set of sleazy guitar riffs and rhythmic thumping toms coupled with deep, gravelly vocals that evoke Tom Waits at times.

Be-spectacled guitarist Shane Hicks and drummer Andrew Walter conjure a storm of noise that would put many four-piece units to shame as they showcase several songs from their EP Abused Blues and a bunch of new tunes. Early on, they evoke gunslinger ballads of yore and occasionally drop hints of echoing surf rock, but by and large the EP title sums their grimy style perfectly.

The Blackwater Fever’s concoction of seductive blues and raucous rock was the perfect way to start this sell-out showcase of three of the nation’s best blues/rock acts. Singer/guitarist Shane Hicks and relatively new drummer Andrew Walter are gelling at an exponential rate – each gig sees them moving closer and closer towards inevitable popularity. The Fever’s set has been bolstered by a moody Bobby Vinton intro, various sound effects and film samples and vocalist/guitarist Shane Hicks – decked out in Roy Orbison style glasses – jilted about the stage with the subdued confidence of a man in knowing possession of a swag full of quality songs. Walter is a tight, powerful drummer and handled the sample duties with ease as well as adding his own flare to old favourites like ‘Blackwater’. The new songs/samples aired on the night left me salivating at the prospect of a debut album.