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Album Review: Fever/Sky by Wilder Woods

Bear Rinehart, frontman for the band Needtobreathe, has a new album for his nom de guerre Wilder Woods. The album is packed with great songs that can stand up as singles on their own. The album channels an early-Seventies soul style reminiscent of acts like Joe Cocker and David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Fans of Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats will also love this album. Rinehart’s bluesy rasp carries the album and brilliantly delivers just the right vibe and emotion for each tune. Fever/Sky is a real treat.

The album opens like gangbusters. “Maestro (Tears Don’t Lie)” has a driving beat and Rinehart’s soulful vocals, but it is when the background singers kick in that the race is on. Let’s give a shout-out to the production arrangement and those background singers! It’s no lie, the background singers carry this song’s energy, complement Rinehart’s distorted rasp, and make this track so enjoyable.

The second and third tracks each pull back the energy of the preceding song and this sequencing works well for the album. The second track “Patience” has great blues and gospel elements including a terrific organ and again that chorus of background singers. The song is a tormented confession of a man’s shortcomings and fear of losing the one he loves. The third track, “Be Yourself,” is stripped down and lets a piano and vocals carry the song. The lines from the second verse really say it all:

You're my hero, you're my villain, oh, and I don't care who wins

Oh, you can be yourself, yeah, you can be yourself

I'm in love with all your pages, I don't want to see it end

Oh, you can be yourself, yeah, you can be yourself

As you dig into the tracks songs with various elements keep the albums moving and changing. “Criminal” is an upbeat Seventies organ-backed rock tune with, again, fantastic background vocals that bring energy and at times harmonize with the hard-pushing organ. The popish tune “Get It Back” is sweet and catchy. It has a chorus that sticks with you. Also, I like the fact that it never feels rushed. The distorted lead guitars on “Be the Man” anchors a very cool rock tune that echoes of early seventies earthy hippy rock.

The album’s gem might be the eleventh and final track. “Make Your Own Mistakes” is exactly what it sounds like. A father’s advice to his children. The song is lovely and inspiring. It has a bit of a big sky country sound and I have to say I just love it when albums end with a song like this. It puts a nice bow on everything.

Fever/Sky was largely written over the pandemic. It was written during a period of isolation when such projects tended to be more personal in nature. Bear Rinehart’s project is a terrific album that focuses on the people he is closest to in his life. The energy and production in this album is top notch. This is one that will be on various Old Man playlists for a long time.


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