Natalie Felker looks the listener straight in the eye, via her piano and supple voice, and talks you into accepting the dagger — because you know full well that it’s two-sided, and that she’ll accept the other blade. As husband Ben’s guitars start up a sharp squall, you hear why it’s worth the cost: One listen to the bright voices coming in all around to surround you in a reassuring embrace and you’re ready to pick up the dare, the challenge. The Fervor formed around this pair — her voice and keys, his guitar and harmony. Right from the start, Natalie was capable of facing up to piano-based alternative divas, but with the skill and resolve to wrest the inspiration from the affectation. She could be the flirt who always said upfront something more honest than your carefully crafted thoughts. Or she could drop her voice low and quiet, be your confidant and your gospel-chord-pounding witness to raw self-confrontation.
In sharpening its focus, the group added drummer Mat Herron and set out on a slew of live shows in 2007 to support of its first album, “Bleeder.” Michael Campbell was found to play bass, and they again criss-crossed the eastern United States. As they developed their live show, the group began to realize their power as a collective. Meanwhile Natalie continued to craft strong new songs for a band moving toward bringing light to mysteries of personality and intimacy, but without any pretense of a definitive answer and far removed from any calming platitudes.
San Francisco sessions confirmed their rebirth. Under producer Charles Gonzalez, the band holed up at Mission Bells (Jackie Greene, Mother Hips) and Radical Sound (Rogue Wave). Between these two facilities, The Fervor found classic gear and physical ambiance to realize the album they had been hearing, one focused on performance, and not perfection. The West coast style had infiltrated the camp and greeted them like a long lost friend. They returned home to Louisville, where friend and engineer Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket, California Guitar Trio, Wax Fang) mixed and maintained the focus: on the power of what The Fervor can do together in a room. From these sessions has emerged “Arise, Great Warrior,” (out Feb. 8, 2011). It’s a record that is gut-punching in impact, but life-affirming in its lasting spark and hopeful mysteries.