Chest Fever

Chest Fever blurs the boundaries between past and present with Music From Big Pink, a reimagined take on The Band’s iconic release from 1968.

Recorded in a single day with multi-platinum producer David Kalmusky, the new album finds Chest Fever — the alter ego of San Diego’s award-winning band Mrs. Henry, whose members appear in both groups — filtering The Band’s classic music through their own prism of rock & roll and psychedelia. At once fresh and familiar, Chest Fever’s Music From Big Pink arrives on the heels of the group’s reinterpreted version of The Band’s Rock of Ages, with both releases breathing new life into The Band’s catalog.

“If Rock of Ages was the sound of Chest Fever getting into the car and going to the grocery store, then Music From Big Pink sounds like us going into space,” says the group’s guitarist, Daniel Cervantes. “We’re exploring places we’ve never been before.”

Don’t mistake Chest Fever for a cover band. The group’s members — Cervantes, keyboardist Jody Bagley, bassist Blake Dean, organist/saxophonist Ben Pinnola, and drummer Allan Ritter — certainly honor their source material, but they shy away from note-for-note replicas of The Band’s songs, too. Instead, the five musicians (along with former keyboardist Dour Organ, who played organ on the album itself) turn Music From Big Pink into something new, restructuring the album’s track list and stretching several songs well past their original running times. The result is an album that highlights not only the group’s respect for The Band, but also the musical chemistry and unique instincts of a rock band that’s spent hundreds of hours onstage together.

“When we began touring, we knew how to play these songs, but we wanted to reimagine some of them, too,” Cervantes says. “By the second tour, we were merging songs together to make song suites and seamless transitions. By the time we got to Nashville on our ‘Freeze In The South’ tour, we had the formula down, and we knew we could capture what we’ve been doing in our shows if we just went into the studio and played everything live. It was just five people in one room, playing these songs together in real time, just like we would at a show.”

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Chest Fever was born onstage. Everything began with a Mrs. Henry gig in 2017 in Solana Beach, California, where Cervantes and company gathered together a number of local musicians to perform The Last Waltz in its entirety. They did the same in November 2021, this time with appearances from guests like the Eagles’ collaborator and hit songwriter Jack Tempchin, violinist Scarlet Rivera of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, Zander Schloss of the Circle Jerks, and Black Crowes veteran Marc Ford. The reaction was seismic. By the following year, the group was playing similar shows across America and Canada, celebrating The Band under the name “Chest Fever.” Robbie Robertson even gave his blessing to Chest Fever during the final stretch of his life, encouraging the group to carry on the legacy of The Band as the majority of its original members passed on.

Chest Fever’s Music From Big Pink kicks off with an amped-up version of “This Wheel’s on Fire” before segueing into “Kingdom Come.” It’s an unexpected one-two punch for fans more accustomed to the sequence of the original album, and it shines new light on both the source material and Chest Fever itself. Other highlights include a reinterpreted “In a Station,” which channels the psychedelic hues of Pink Floyd, as well as a 15-minute version of the group’s namesake song, “Chest Fever.” Featuring exploratory guitar jams, swirling organ, and a propulsive rhythmic pulse, “Chest Fever” is as celebratory as it is cathartic. And if it sometimes sounds more like Mrs. Henry than The Band… well, that’s the whole point.

“It’s The Band’s music, but it sounds like us,” Cervantes says. “We’re not the first artist to approach a classic record and record our own version, but we’re the first to cover Big Pink like this. We’re the first band to play this music like us.”

Photo: Santiago Guzman

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