Ian Felice is the beating heart of The Felice Brothers. Formerly with Simone (but on production duties here) and latterly with James (“Real talent”), the siblings have made some of the most rollockingly mournful music that’s ever come out of The Catskills. Ian Felice has long been the voice of the band as well as the source of a lot of the humour. Who could forget ‘Frankie’s Gun’? “Frankie you’re a friend of mine, Got me off a bender after long-legged Brenda died”. This time he’s solo. And very personal. The death of his stepfather. The fears of becoming a father himself. And more than a little sense of the disconcerting nature of modern life, including Trump’s America. With titles such as ‘In Memoriam’, ‘Mt. Despair’, and ‘In The Final Reckoning’, the tone is set. But it’s never miserable. There’s a lyrical playfulness. “Well the aliens landed on election day, And they stole your mother’s lingerie”. Plenty of stories. “I was squeezed in the back of a yellow cab, Between ruin and fate, Both armed to the teeth and more beneath”. And some arresting images. “I was walking down by the tracks where the communist bees relax, In their hives of golden wax when I thought I should run”. With Simone on drums and James on piano this almost counts as a reunion album. But not quite. It’s unmistakably Ian Felice’s album. In all its wonderful, mournful glory.
The Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress
The Felice Brothers are the kings of The Catskills. The princes of Poughkeepsie. The aldermen of Albany. The masters of a raspy but lilting, and sometimes lyrically disturbing, upstate New York Americana. All of which made their previous album, Celebration, Florida, sound so displaced. Having hit the dance floors of the Sunshine State, they turned on the techno and pumped up the volume. Funny thing is, it almost worked. Sure, grafting one sound onto another meant that sometimes it was a mess, but other times it sounded new and more than a little refreshing. Raspy but lilting, plus funky too. But maybe the experiment was all a little bit too much, because on their new album, Favorite Waitress, the Miami sound machine has fallen off the charts. This is a more traditional Felice Brothers album. The beatbox is banned and the beards are back. ‘Bird On Broken Wing’ opens the album safely and gently. ‘Hawthorne’ dips into the disturbing old lyric bag and plucks out a little political commentary too. And yet, this isn’t simply a return to the status quo ante. It’s not just One More Night At The Arizona. The band is still trying to push the sound forward. ‘Constituents’ could have been a standard Felice Brothers cut, but this time it’s backed by a classical organ and it turns out really well. And there are more up tempo songs on this album than on most previous outings. ‘Cherry Licorice’ is worth a campfire sing-along, though the thrashy folk of ‘Katie Cruel’ sounds too close to the Mumfords for comfort, and ‘Woman Next Door’ is just a noisy mess. The Felice Brothers are wily old critters. They know they’re easy to pigeonhole and so they’re keen to keep things fresh. That’s a good quality and more than reason enough to stick with them on their musical travels.
The Line of Best Fit review
As part of The Felice Brothers, Simone inhabits the shadier part of town. Not quite the wrong side of the tracks, but close by. Guns are either present or not very far away. Simone and his brothers, Ian and James, get into situations their mother probably warned them against. There’s usually drama in the songs. It makes for interesting listening. Recording as The Duke and The King, Simone Felice is in a much more benign place. Topanga Canyon circa 1975. At home with bands such as Dawes, Maplewood, and the arch-revivalist, the magnificent Jonathan Wilson, the mood is laid back. Hazy. With a slightly acrid smell in the air. His mother probably warned him against plenty of things that are going on there as well, but, on balance, she’d probably be happier he’s there and not in the other place. Now, Simone Felice has released his first self-titled project. The sounds don’t stray too far from the canyons, but the cast of characters suggests that he’s been hooking up again with his brothers. On ‘New York Times’ he sings about a 35-year old from New Jersey who “with a thirty-thirty, found them girls rehearsing in a ballet school, And when he bust in and point his musket he turned the lilly white muslin into bright red bloom”. Other characters include Bobby Ray, a rapist; Dawn Brady and her son who, guess what, has a gun and you know he’s gonna use it; Hetti Blackbird, an Indian from South Dakota who steals a gold Range Rover; Sharon Tate and Charlie Manson, and we know what happens there; and, most frighteningly of all, Courtney Love. Simone imagines himself in a relationship with the lonely Ms Love. ‘Take a chance and come away with me’, he sings. ‘I’ll work construction’. Suffice to say, there’s no sign of a happy ending. Mr Felice, it’s your mother on the phone again.
Simone Felice – Official website