WITH THE arrival of Fetchin Bones' first album, "Cabin Fever," the temptation is simply to add this North Carolina quintet to the swelling list of artsy southern rock bands like R.E.M. and Guadalcanal Diary.

Appropriately, "Cabin Fever" was produced by Don Dixon at Mitch Easter's Drive-Inn Studio. Also true to form, the record flashes an eclectic blend of folk-rock, country and art- rock influences, as well as the requisite enigmatic lyricism.

But it is a promising debut for a group whose identity takes forceful shape around Hope Nicholls' barely controlled vocals and the band's raw but colorful playing. The dramatic urgency of Nicholls' delivery reminds one of Patti Smith, especially on the punky "Briefcase," where she spits out her syllables like distasteful morsels.

Nicholls' fire is more than matched by guitarists Aron Pitkin and Gary White, whose leads cross and tangle around her voice with scorching intensity.

Nicholls' striking identity helps hold together the band's stylistically diverse repertoire, which stretches from the jazzy be-bop of "Black Lilies" and the pastoral folksiness of "God's Hanky" to the fractured funk of "Kitchen of Life." White takes on a couple of lead vocals, and on a creaky piece of country called "Spinning," he gets off some inspired if imprecise yodeling.