Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yonder is the Clock Full review

The Band: The Felice Brothers
Players: Ian Felice-Guitar and vocals
James Felice- Accordian, Organ, Piano, vocals
Simone Felice-Percussion, vocals
Christmas Clapton-Bass, vocals
Farley-Fiddle, Percussion, Washboard, vocals

Yonder is the Clock is the new album by the Felice Brothers, released on Team Love Records, due to hit stores on April 7. The title, drawn from the Mark Twain story "the Mysterious Stranger", in which Satan jokes to a blacksmith, that both the Stoned and the Stoner, have their time, and Satan has an eternity to enjoy himself. For the characters on Yonder is the Clock, time is nearly up; the Sailor lost in a terrible storm, The jailed soldier, the cheated lover, and the American empire. Unlike the self-titled release of 2008, this collection of songs are almost completely loaded with hopelessness, in the battle for peoples souls, the devil is winning.

Track 1: The Big Surpise: A quiet ballad in the vein of St. Stephen's End, about a jilted lover on the brink of doing something unspeakable to his paramour. Ian whispers, " The Jazzy Band has lost its swing, the revolution has lost its dream. When all your love has been a lie, its the day of the Big Surprise".

Track 2: Penn Station: A classic train-going-to-heaven metaphor, about a John Doe, dying on the floor in Penn Station, amidst train sounds, a chorus of "Whoo-hoo" and fiddles and accordian. This live tour de force translates very well onto vinyl. Ranks as a near equal to Frankie's Gun as a catchy single. Ian sings " With a toothbrush and a comb, five dollars and a dead cell phone, no photo id", setting the stage for the nameless victim and his souls race to get on the number 7 train to heaven, while a train, with Satan at the helm, is nipping at his heels.

Track 3: Buried In Ice: This number finds Christmas on lead vocal singing the woes of a cryogenically frozen man, out of his time, lonely and lost, and questioning the morality of those who made it possible. Christmas creaky voice asks "Professor what kind of miracle is this? you should be careful just what you wish for"

Track 4: Chicken Wire: The long circulated tune known from the Daytrotter Sessions, gets a major push from the band, and is far more uptempo here, Like Bill Haley and the Comets, "Rock Around the Clock", that is if it were about a invalid man fantasizing about wrapping himself in chicken wire and being dumped into the sea and being eaten by sharks. A very strong track with a great organ provided by James Felice.

Track 5: Ambulance Man: Ian crying out "Here comes the rain", with accordian washing over his melody. At the end of the song it builds so that amongst the carnival feel of the accordian, Ian is begging the Ambulance man for a ride.

Track 6: Sailor Song: virtually unrecognizable lyrics sung by James Felice. About a sailor lost in a storm, physically and spiritually cast adrift. Beautiful piano intro and its propelled by accordain throughout. Almost a solo song, where the sailor reflects that his kind do not get a burial like his land dwelling comrades

Track 7: Katie Dear: A great rendition of the traditional folk song. Very touching ballad of a man writing a song for his beloved, Ian sings "Katie dear, draw me a road map, with those brown ole eyes I love". Again the character is isolated from his loved ones. Sounds like a Levon Helm track for sure.

Track 8: Run Chicken Run: Ian sings about a man run afoul with a well connected madame, and is hounded by knife wielding Bronx man and a pipe bomb toting woman, featuring the closest thing the band has ever had to a guitar solo. Fast paced barn burner, well suited for the live show.

Track 9: All When We Were Young: Simone takes the lead vocal in maybe the most political song they have done yet (at least as the Felice Brothers). In this ballad, Simone's beautiful voice cries, "Where'd those planes come from, that burned my city in all that smoke and ash?" . "Sometimes the things you do, they come back at you."

Track 10: Boy From Lawrence County: Drug dealers and users, betrayed friendships, murder and mystery? Sounds familiar? One of the best tracks they ever laid down. This epic tale of of a loser, turning on a friend plays like cinema and ranks with Hey Hey Revolver and Lou the Welterweight as the best work this band has done. Expertly sung by Ian with the sad refrain "Tell me Judge, whats the bounty, on the boy from Lawrence County? He's a friend of mine. If I had a way to trap him, would you pay up captain? He's a friend of mine".

Track 11: Memphis Flu: too loose. Unlike "Take This Hammer" which was endearing and driven by Ian's vocal, this is the sound of a drunken party. Most of the vocals are unrecognizable. This one missed the mark, but remains a great live number.

Track 12: Cooperstown: Another tale, centered around baseball and Ty Cobb, that focuses on the seperation between us and people isolated from one another. Ian cries " I'm on First and your on Third, and the wolves are in between ".

Track 13: Rise and Shine: Again someone's time is up, and in this case its a very close friend, a blood brother apparently, who share his last moments. Beautiful song.

Overall, its a more complete effort than the last album, but with less lyrical cleverness, and a much darker (if thats possible) feel.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New CD in our possession!!

1. The Big Surprise
2. Penn Station
3. Buried in Ice
4. Chicken Wire
5. Ambulance Man
6. Sailor Song
7. Katie Dear
8. Run Chicken Run
9. All When We Were Young
10. Boy from Lawrence County
11. Memphis Flu
12. Cooperstown
13. Rise and Shine

Need another full day to totally absorb it. The surprising gem on this album is so far.."the Boy From Lawrence County", it appears to be a classic in the mold of Rockefeller Drug Law Blues

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Look Back: The Big Empty Simone Felice, Ian Felice, Doctor Brown, Robert Burke

from Chronogram.com 2003
Emerging from the Void:
The Big Empty Rages Against the Regime
By Sharon Nichols; Photos by Megan McQuade

The moment of conception. A silver night train sails on from Florence to Paris. In the confined space of a sleeper car, two American brothers, entranced by the hum, burn the midnight oil behind dusty red curtains. The elder is a poet, the younger a painter. Sipping wine, the brothers write furiously into the night: The hospital’s filled with the people’s disease/And we’ve run out of pills/But the secret police are in the bloodstream of everyone/In the free world/And the naked sun/Will burn until we hide it away. The embryo.

The painter hovers over a shiny black baby grand, extracting melancholy chords from the instrument’s hollow. The poet behind the mike is in his own movie, stomping furiously, singing, his head lurching on his neck like that of a shaken rag doll. His eyes bulge. He flaps his arms like a mad bird. He wipes the mike across his face. The poet pushes it out:
Moscow how does it feel to be a dead superpower?/Poor superpower/I remember your curtain years/You must be lonely/You won’t be lonely for long.

The crowd screams and pounds their feet on the wooden floor. Applause for the midwife. The Big Empty is born.

A Word’s Worth
Simone Felice is big on quotes. He’s got a thing for words, this poet, this spokesperson and chief emoter for the newborn band The Big Empty. He and his band members have an ongoing love affair with political commentary, and he relates two lines to me, lines from what he calls “two American literary giants.” The first is from Moby Dick.
“The killer is never hunted,” Felice recites from memory. “I never heard what sort of oil he has. Exception might be taken to the name bestowed upon this whale, on the grounds of its indistinctness. For we are all killers, on land and on sea.” Felice continues. “Melville is describing the respective species of whales worldwide, and he’s describing the killer whale. I read the line like 400 times, it hit me so hard.”

Felice’s second quote is from a man he calls Pure Immaculate George W.

“I heard him discussing the importance of a pre-emptive strike upon the desert nation of Iraq, and he delivered a statement that basically threw me to the ground. It goes like this.” Pause. Impersonation: “He tried to kill my daddy.” Felice laughs quietly.

The Big Empty. The name isn’t hard to figure out. It’s the sky above our heads. It’s the void we’re spinning in. It’s the barren, desolate place in the heart of mankind and in the American Dream. It’s something different to everyone because each has his own empty place inside. Add to the essence of that void a slowcore sound. Not the grinding of Mother Earth on her axis, but an unhurried Pink Floydesque mix of introspective mellows and consistently potent musical excursions that are sensitive enough to haunt you, yet painful enough to stain your mind. These boys spade through the soil of your most troubled imaginings. It might come as a surprise to the uninitiated—this is heavy-duty stuff.

Unlike most musicians, these cats are fueled by words. The band consists of three eloquent wordsmiths: “Doctor” Sean Brown and Ian and Simone Felice. Their lyrics are driven by beauty and loss, which they view as one and the same. They expound on weighty themes such as politics and love. “The hearts of man haven’t changed in all these millions of years,” says the front man. “We need, we fall in love, we dream, we sing, and we tear each other to pieces. There’s a fire inside us, and without that fire, man is naked and low. Fire is contained within all our proud creations—the gasoline engine, the hydrogen bomb. Fire gives mankind its meaning. And fire is the thing that will blow us apart.”
Between rehearsals, the band members continue to weave words—they adopt southern accents and pretend to play Scrabble to keep each other entertained. The players: Pure W and Uncle Cheney. Pure W hatches such words as “Tex” and “Jeb”. Uncle Cheney’s words are significantly larger: “Corporate Takeover” and “Biological Warfare.” “Tex is not a word, W,” complains Uncle Cheney. Pure W retorts, “Mark it down, Uncle Cheney! That’s six points!”

Fire In The House
Simone Felice sways in his ripped denim shirt at The Big Empty’s debut performance at Woodstock’s Colony Cafe on October 12. No one has yet heard this work aside from the band itself. The room seems a temple with its many burning candles, and 100-or-so listeners pack the building on a night when cold rain pelts the roof. Felice dedicates two love songs. One is for Uncle Cheney, the other is for Pure Immaculate Imperial All-Knowing W. Young brother Ian’s playing is passionate, tear-jerking. The poet stands offstage in the audience observing his boys, then steps on and delivers his oracle.

Leaders are ugly/Paper blood and counterfeit hearts/I’ve got no love for the government/I can’t believe in their adequate counterfeit/ I’ve been sick all my life to see/To see their holy gold overthrown.

Felice’s occasional twitching is reminiscent of a young David Byrne. He clutches his skull then extends his arms, giving the sign: a two-handed “W”.

Wouldn’t it kill you to apologize?/There’s no use in pulling out your eyes/You’ll never see them suffering/But you never seen them peering through dirty fences/How could you see their multitude through your dirty lenses?

Ian’s Dylanesque vocals take over. The vibe is unhappy, hungry. You can feel it in the music, and the words, and the space between the words.

I don’t have the grace to walk through this world the way you want me to/There’s a monster in my side and a hostage in my spine/When I hold myself up to the light.

Felice reaches two arms out to his brother in petition, then up to heaven. He holds himself as he sings his tempest. Doctor Brown, eyes closed, whacks the drums, shaking the very foundation of the room. These guys are pissed. Felice begins jumping, jerking. Lady Liberty is on the pyre.

Laugh until you’re blue at the blood in my eyes/You’re nothing but a whore to me, my love/My love/You kill the angels/Oh, my love.

At its climax, the room buzzes with energy. Felice kisses his brother on the heads. “I feel vindicated,” he utters into the mike.

Old Ghosts
The brothers Felice and Doctor Brown have been working feverishly in 2002 to complete their self-titled, 12-track debut CD. It will be recorded at Iiwii Studios in New York City in the last week of October and released on Superstar Records in December. One day, two takes for each song, antique mikes, all live, no overdubs. But perhaps the most noteworthy detail is that the album will be recorded with the piano John Lennon used when recording “Imagine”.

“Most of The Big Empty’s songs are piano-based,” explains Simone, “so I told our producer we needed a really nice piano, and he found this one. It really means a lot to us, and it was a deciding factor because we have such a great love for John Lennon. We’re gonna pull the ghosts from the room and from the streets in the city, we’re gonna pull the ghosts out of that piano and out of ourselves, and we’re gonna lay it down.”

Ian’s studies of painting in Italy and New York City drove him to set up his own art studio in Palenville. A self-taught musician, the 20-year-old also plays piano, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and bagpipes, sings harmony, and writes a good portion of the lyrics for The Big Empty. When he’s not writing, performing, or painting, he’s traveling the world or adventuring in the great outdoors with his brother.

A popular Woodstock poet, Simone Felice, author of The Picture Show, has delivered his words on the BBC to critical acclaim with poet Ainsley Burroughs, and has fronted and recorded CDs with several bands: Television Baby, Fuzz Deluxe, Prophet, Odd City. His second book of prose and poetry, Tomorrow Will Come, is complete, and he’s working toward a master’s degree in creative writing at Empire State College so he can teach poetry. As the charismatic leader of The Big Empty, the 26-year-old provides a mesmerizing stage presence for which he is well known, but he’d like to put his old ghosts behind him. “What we’re doing with The Big Empty is what I’ve been waiting to do my whole life,” he says. “I’m able to work with my brother, my best friend. We have something between us that is ancient and profound. Only recently in working with him do I feel I’ve found my true voice as a singer. I’ve always been able to write words. But aside from my prose, this project is what I’m bleeding on from now to the end of time.”

Doctor Brown and Ian have been friends since childhood, so Brown is like a third brother to the Felices. He plays drums, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, provides vocal harmony, and composes with the group. His other creative endeavor is that of amateur wine and beer making. In a basement wine cellar that smells like a cave, he brews crazy apple wine and voluminous bottles of hard cider and beer. He’s the scientist, the technician, the doctor of the band, grounding everyone and figuring things out. An outdoorsman, he also studies forestry. Together the three men rehearse in their studio in Palenville, a sanctuary in the woods on the Kaaterskill Creek where they can work and feel at peace, isolated from the red, white, and blue while at the same time penning songs about it.

The man who found Lennon’s piano is producer is Robert “Chicken” Burke, probably best known as the producer for George Clinton and his own band, Drugs. He’s The Big Empty’s “modern day dirty magician,” a man who can pull up the spirits. Burke shares a studio in Chichester with bassist Adam Widoff, who plays and writes bass lines with The Big Empty. Known for his work with Lenny Kravitz, Madonna, and the B-52s, Widoff is also acting as co-producer. Widoff is a member of Drugs and plays electric guitar, piano, and clavinet. The band also enlists Justin Trushell and his ‘80s vintage Roland Juno for the CD and live gigs, adding a subtle etheric vibe to several songs. A DJ, Trushell produces and creates dance and techno music from his own Palenville studio. He’s been friends with Simone since they learned to walk, and the pair have traveled Europe together. Another long-time friend, John Brown, has been in the picture since the fourth grade bus stop. He fills in as drummer when Doctor Brown is on guitar. He and Felice have performed in bands together since they started out in grandpa’s barn. As a comrade in the outer ensemble, The Big Empty wouldn’t be complete without him.

Politics are not only embedded in the band’s lyrics, but in the album artwork as well. The cover will be printed in deep red, as that of Soviet propaganda. The bald focus is on the three words—”the”, “big”, and “empty”—lined up much like those Scrabble board pieces. The words were conscientiously extracted and copied from a particular book and took the boys three or four hours of skimming to locate. They have their own agenda for this. The book, which they’d rather not name for copyright reasons, is a dark masterpiece which has torn them apart and shaped the way they feel about destiny and humankind.

“The people who have the power,” continues the front man, “these are aliens. All they care about is self-preservation. They would throw their own mothers in a fire to save themselves and their oil.”

This new musical project of beauty and loss, revolution and hope, angst and abstraction is aching to be heard. They will unleash their ghosts for the second time at a CD release party on Friday, December 13, at The Uptown in Kingston. On December 19, they will perform at Joyous Lake in Woodstock for WDST Live Sessions. For more information, call The Uptown at 339-8440.
I am looking for a copy of The Big Empty if anyone can help!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Envy Magazine review of Yonder is the Clock

The Felice Brothers
Yonder Is The Clock

With its release coming hot on the heels of their self-titled 2008 debut (which earned comparisons with similarly arty folk-rockers Kings of Leon and The Avett Brothers), it would’ve been easy for The Felice Brothers to simply dump all of their unreleased material onto Yonder Is The Clock and call it a day.

Instead, their sophomore effort is both more cohesive and diverse than its predecessor. On “The Big Surprise,” Ian’s lazy river delivery and the backwoods ambience make it clear that the Brothers want listeners to be sucked into their old-timey universe. This isn’t music one just listens to; it’s music to get lost in.

Other highlights include the eerie “Ambulance Man” and full-bellied celebrations “Run Chicken Run” and “Penn Station,” which has wonderful two-part harmonies. The Brother’s can do a Tom Waits thing (“Sailor Song”) and tug the heartstrings (“Boy From Lawrence County”) with equal aplomb. There is even an ambitious state-of-the-nation composition in “Cooperstown,” which is the group’s most successful crack at long-form narrative songwriting.

Like The Felice’s last release, Yonder could use a few faster numbers to pace the mournful ballads that dominate the B side. But there isn’t one bad or repetitive song, and on additional listens the album gains appreciable replay value. The Felice Brothers have shown they have staying power.
-Jack Frink

Pictures from Buffalo 3/14

Provided by Christa: thanks again!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spin.com review 3.5 stars

Plenty of young indie acts pay lip service to the fuck-you spirit of Bob Dylan’s mid- '60s pairing with the Band (then called the Hawks), but precious few honor the raggedy-ass electric folk that they hooked up together. On the Felice Brothers' second album for Conor Oberst's Team Love label, these Catskills boys do just that, playing songs about cops on the take and dying in Penn Station with a hurtling forward motion that prevents the music from sounding (entirely) like a book report. Killer accordion solos, too

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Felice Brothers at Radio Radio Indy March 16

1. Run Chicken Run
2. Greatest Show on Earth
3. Murder By Mistletoe
4. Whiskey in my Whiskey: Farley asks "what's this song about?" James, "Drinking Whiskey and killing your woman!"
5. Marlboro Man: Farley again asks, "What's this song about?" Ian, "This is a very personal song about a man dying of cancer".
6. Chicken Wire: Ian, "Another song about an invalid on his death bed".
7. Cypress Grove: Ian, "Spooky blues number by the great Skip James, its either Skip James or Bon Jovi."
8. White Limo: Ian, "this is a heavy metal song, so".
9. Let Me Come Home: Ian, "this is a very tender, tender, tender song about a prodigal son who wants to come home."Farley, " come up close, you got to hear these words, let em touch you all over". James on lead vocal, reminiscent of Christmas Song.
10. Loves me Tenderly: Best version i've heard yet.
11. Goddamn You Jim
12. Hey Hey Revolver
13. Galilee
14. Marie: lots of trading vocals
15. Take this Bread: Clapping fans drive this song along.
16. Frankie's Gun: sounding very Ska'ish
17. Where'd You get the Liquor?
18. St Stephens End
19. Two Hands: Ian, This is a song by the late great Townes Van Zandt.
20 Penn Station.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Felice Brothers at SXSW Lucero Picnic

Show review:
Hardcore fans hail the Felice Brothers as Americana’s second coming. Call them urban saviors of the jeans and T-shirt crowd.

Perhaps. New York’s most forward-thinking roots rockers absolutely combusted Habana Bar Friday night. Rising crowd tension — the joint was stuffed unmercifully, compounded by literally overflowing outhouses (only one per sex) and a single drink station — fueled its fire. “Hello, friends and family,” lead singer James Felice howled against a tide of white-hot enthusiasm. “This song’s about drinking whiskey and killing your woman. C’mon, boys!”

Unhinged enthusiasm immediately backed the band’s reputation. Beer drinkers and hell raisers united blissfully. The road went on and the party never ended. Clearly, these folks weren’t new to the show.

But Friday afternoon’s appearance at the Lucero Family Picnic at the Dirty Dog - before everything grew a touch worse for the wear, the band drinking Lone Star tallboys like water - better showcased the Felice Brothers’ recent artistic strides. Material from the forthcoming masterwork “Yonder is the Clock” both torpedoed hearts and shook homes. Easy highlights like the scattershot country blues “Run, Chicken, Run” and “Ambulance Man” offered brilliant Southern Gothic narratives.

Real American idols provide faith to the hopeless and eternity to the lifeless. “Oh, how sweetly I do sleep on the bathroom tile where the porter sweeps,” James warbles and moans on the profoundly poignant “Penn Station.” “With a nickel in my hand like the star of Bethlehem.” Few eulogies chill as deeply. Austin360

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Austin Chronicle reviews Yonder is the Clock

SXSW Records

The Felice Brothers
Yonder Is the Clock (Team Love)

Helmed by siblings Ian, Simone, and James, eldest of seven tumbling down from New York's Catskill Mountains, the Felice Brothers re-create their own Basement Tapes with a loose roots style and Ian's plodding and gritty vocals. The quintet's fourth LP opens dirgelike with the beautifully disillusioned "The Big Surprise" before exploding on "Penn Station," pounded out in a raucous Avett Brothers-meets-Malcolm Holcombe fervor. Ian's sandpaper voice arrests even as he evokes familiar like-throated singers: Tom Waits on "Buried in Ice" and the haunted piano waltz of "Sailor Song"; Bob Dylan everywhere, but especially "Ambulance Man" and "Boy From Lawrence County." Yet, Ian emerges as equally poetic, winding epic narratives of pure Americana such as the nostalgic "Cooperstown." The trembling "All When We Were Young" is less convincing, and "Memphis Flu" falls apart in drunken frenzy before it even starts, but across 13 songs, Yonder Is the Clock proves timeless.

Sup' Mag reviews Yonder is the Clock

Be sure to check out 'Sup's interview and photo feature on the Felice Brothers in Issue 18!
Thumbnail image for yonderistheclock-300x300.jpg BAND: THE FELICE BROTHERS ///

I made 3 New Year Resolutions for 2009:

1) Wear more suits.
2) Dance more.
3) You don’t need to know about the third one.

What has this in relation to the Felice Brothers' new album Yonder Is The Clock?

Well – the suit thing doesn’t really. However – Dance More – oh yes. Let’s get this out of the way early – this album made me want to dance. Whether it was a slow country waltz, in checked shirts and braces, or whether it was a bit of a high knee ding dong with a bunch of cider drunks hooking arms and swinging about. This album has got rhythm. It’s also got style. But in a buck-tooth geeky country folk blues credible kinda way.

If you so choose, do a quick Google™ search on the Felice Brothers – you’ll find a tonne of references to Bob Dylan’s the Band, and a few comparisons to Woody Guthrie. Ok – so there are some similarities – and it gives you a vague idea of what you’re letting yourself in for, but it’s an easy and lazy reference to make.

I’m reluctant to leave it at that. For one, the FB’s lead singer Ian can actually sing in tune, compared to Dylan’s off-key drawl. Yes, it’s a gruff voice, yes, at times it sounds slightly strained, and yes, it’s in need of a glass of milk to cool it down.

But combine this raw vocal, with Simone’s drums, James’ accordion/piano/organ, Christmas’ bass, and Farley’s washboard and fiddle – you suddenly get this feeling of warmth, mud and beer. I never got that feeling from a Dylan track.

So let’s get into the detail. Yonder is the Clock is the follow-up to their self-titled record released in 2008.

To give you a bit of a back-story – this was recorded in a studio built by the band from the remains of an abandoned chicken coup, where they had to run the power from the main building across the yard and into the coup.

The title of the album is lifted from the pages of Mark Twain, in homage to all the characters and influences that have made this record. The album overflows – with tales of chickens (at least 2 mentions), a British gent who is razor-sharp as hell (I like to think they are referring to me), ambulances, jail cells and phantoms. This is such a refreshing change from the maudlin songs about teenage angst that litter our radios. Songs with real meaning.

I’m not going to give you a song-by-song synopsis – it’ll spoil the surprise – but I will give you a couple of notable highlights.

"Penn Station" is a marvelous recording. Ian’s voice seems to really take you to a place you didn’t think imaginable. His croaky, crackling voice singing to you about a guy who died at Penn Station, with a nickel in his hand that shines like the star of Bethlehem, catching the train to heaven. Sounds morbid – but the magnificent instrumental two minutes in makes you realise it’s anything but.

"Chicken Wire" is a strange song about being wrapped in chicken wire in the ocean, trying to fight off the sharks, comparing life to Ann Boleyn. Does it have any deeper meaning? I have no idea. Did it make me do a slightly weird knee-bend foot-shuffle dance whilst I cooked spaghetti bolognese? You bet.

"Run Chicken Run" mentions that British chap with razor-sharp wit, but whom the chicken (A bird? A lady? Who knows?) needs to run away from (maybe I shouldn’t want to this to be referring to me), but again, it’s got such an upbeat tempo, it reminds me of being drunk on pear cider and seeing dancing men with beards, hugging and smiling in a ruddy jovial way.

"Memphis Flu" – I’ll be honest, I can’t understand a word Ian is singing, but this is the type of song you’ll sing at 3:00AM, with a mate who can bash out a few chords on a guitar, and another mate who can play the accordion. I don’t have a friend that can play the accordion. I wish I did.

Ok – enough of the individual songs – there are too many highlights here, so I’ll leave it to you to discover them.

In summary though – the Felice Brothers have this wonderful sound. It’s a sound that really sums up Old America. It has gutter-like voices, it’s relaxed – you don’t need to dress up to listen to these guys. It’s got a folksy country feel, without actually being either. It has some blood and guts and fire in the belly. It’s has fast hectic tunes to twist and smile to; it has slow ballads, laced with meaning and metaphors. It’s happy. It’s sad. But sad in a happy way. And happy in a sad way.

This album makes me want to dance. If I’m happening to be wearing a suit at the same time, then that would be bloody brilliant.

I have no hesitation in recommending that you buy this album as soon as it is released. Buy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interview with James Felice Prior to Buffalo show

Mountain man James Felice and the Felice Brothers are headed to Mohawk Place

- If, like me, you use horror movies as a guide to life, then you probably don’t trust hillfolk. But after a friendly, lively conversation with JAMES FELICE —pianist/accordion wheezer for Catskill Mountain natives the Felice Brothers—I’m pretty sure that he’s not a bloodthirsty radioactive mutant, and his family doesn’t kill teenagers and feed them to their zombie grandpa.

The band swings through Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.) at 9 p. m. Saturday, in support of its new album, “Yonder is the Clock,” out April 7. Stuffed with free-wheeling, Dylan-es-que rock and mournful Dust Bowl ballads, the record manages to lean on old sounds while still capturing the feeling of the here and now.

We talked to Felice about the album, his obsession with Lil Wayne and whether or not he has the Catskills to pay the bills.

Is it incorrect to call your music nostalgic?

It’s definitely not nostalgic. It’s inspired by a lot of that music; it hearkens back to it. But I think that the music’s really prescient, people can feel it at any time—especially now, with the economy, everybody feels the crunch.

You guys do the expected singalong country romps, but the ballads really set you apart from the novelty Americana groups.

There’s a great deal of sadness in the world, and if you play just hackneyed, fun-loving songs all the time, you’re not really doing a service. You’re just masking over what’s really there. You look at singalong songs as comedy, and sad songs as drama, and trying to combine them both, hopefully, is high art.

Have the mountains you grew up in influenced your music?

Absolutely. Jumping off cliffs into streams, watching out for rattlesnakes, scaring deer, chasing porcupines. That was our life growing up. If we had grown up in the city, our music would be much different, if we played music at all.

As someone who has mountain music street cred, would you be annoyed by a folk band from L.A.?

Nah. I mean, none of us grew up the way guys in the ’20s grew up—we’re sort of poseurs in our own way. I know how to turn on a computer. I play DVDs sometimes.

What kind of music do you love that might surprise people?

We love hip-hop. Ghostface Killah, tons of Lil Wayne. 50 Cent, too. I like 50 Cent a lot.


I’m feeling him.

Fair enough. What are your thoughts on the new album?

I haven’t listened to the album since like four or five months ago. I remember hating it for a while, and then really liking it again, and I’m pretty sure I like it a lot. Joe Sweeney

Friday, March 13, 2009

Felice Bros. In Rochester

On March 13th, The Felice Brothers opened their March tour that will support their upcoming release, Yonder is the Clock. Opening act was Taylor Hollingworth of the Mystic Valley Band. Hollingsworth appeared alone with his acoustic guitar and picked his way through a nice 30 minute set. Vocally he has a nasally sound, and his guitar picking was quite good. The Felice Brothers took the stage just past 9:00 pm and ripped into "Helen Fry". They kept the higher energy songs in abundance at this show and ditched the omnipresent Murder by Mistletoe for a "Take this Bread". Again fans seemed concerned by the absence of Simone Felice, who is releasing his own side project this month for Loose Records, and is spending more time with his family, Searcher filled in more than capably on the drums, and is a major asset to the live show, as his heavy hands push the high octane numbers like Penn Station and Run Chicken Run even further. Searcher's place is looking more permanent, but i'd expect to see Simone make special appearences with the Brothers in the Hudson Valley, Boston and New York.

1. Helen fry
2. Hey hey revolver
3. Whiskey in my whiskey
4. Marlboro man
5. Run chicken run
6. Loves me tenderly
7. Katie dear
8. Big surprise
9. Chicken wire
10. unknown new song
11. Ruby MAE
12. Marie
13. Frankies gun
14. Goddamn you jim
15. Take this bread
16. Memphis flu
17. Greatest show on earth
18. St. Stephens end
19. Lou the welterweight
20. Penn station

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Southern tour with the Felice Brothers

When I walked out of the Spiegeltent at the Fulton Fish Market in Brooklyn this past fall, my head was buzzing. I had been listening to the Felice Brothers CD's for quite a while, been telling friends about them, and how great their albums were, but had never gotten around to see their live show. They were a sight, for sure. I told a friend that i was there with, i thought it was one of the best shows i had ever seen. I was immediately determined to see them again.

When i got home i booked three dates that were near a house i own in the North Carolina. These dates were November 10, 12 and 13th in Washington DC, in Winston Salem, NC and Asheville NC. The show in DC and Asheville were in support of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. The show at The Garage in Winston Salem was as the headline act. In DC, The Brothers got the crowd rolling with a short set, but the venue took a more serious tone when the somber Oberst took his band to the stage. While i found the Mystic Valley Band to be a huge improvement over his previous incarnations, it took till near the end of his set and "NYC Gone Gone" and "I don't Want to Die in a Hospital" to get the crowd back into it. The Brothers overall lacked the enthusiasm in these shows that i saw in New York, particularly the show at the Garage. As i sat outside that venue, about to see how they would do once again as main attraction, i talked with fans who had seen them
on their last trip into the area. Farley came out and greeted all the fans lined up with high fives down the line and thanked everyone for coming to the show. As we filtered in around 8:00pm i thought we be in for a good long ride and a whole lot of songs. The band came with a lot less energy than in New York, or even DC for that matter. They played around 90 minutes, with the highlights being "Mercy" with Simone Felice on vocal, Frankie's Gun, which got the crowd moving, and their new song near the end of the set; Penn Station. When they stopped playing, there was a few comments from the crowd. Simone Felice and James Felice stuck around after the show and talked with some of the fans, and were quite pleasant, but the show was a massive dissapointment compared to past experience.
I traveled off to Asheville to see the final show of the fall for me before i returned home to Massachusetts. Upon returning home, I went back to work and thought nothing of touring again, for about 2 weeks. i simply couldn't stop playing those records, particularly "Glory, Glory", a reworking of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "The Devil is Real", a spot on remake of Bruce Springsteen's "My Fathers House". It is there where i found this music's spiritual center. Springsteen's alt-folk classic Nebraska ushered in the lo-fi movement some have maintained and the tales of killing sprees, isolation, unatoned sins, loss, regret, alcohol abuse, and shame are all abundently evident in the Felice Brothers albums. I decide to give the Felice Brothers another chance. I booked three more dates in the southern swing in the winter of 2009.
The Brothers opened up for Old Crow Medicine Show in Charleston on February 8th. Before the show, i sat in the lobby and talking with my friend Dan, a huge Old Crow fan, and James Felice came over and talked with us about the show and was quite cordial to Dan's son who is 12 years old and plays the guitar. Christmas milled about the lobby area as well. The show started and the band ripped into a newer song "Run Chicken Run" which is a real barnburner and got people moving and hooting. "Murder by Mistletoe", "The Big Surprise" and "St Stephen's End" wrapped melancholy around the always popular "Whiskey in my Whiskey". The crowd was there to see Old Crow Medicine Show, but the bluegrass loving fans really appreciated "Whiskey's" interplay with the audience, and as it finished the North Charleston Performing Arts Center was shaking with stomping feet and cheers. Penn Station finished the set, with new drummer Searcher (Jeremy Backofen) filling
Simone's role as crowd conductor quite well. It was odd that they did not play Frankie's Gun, which is the only song some of the crowd might have heard before and also the best song in their live arsenal.
I shifted to Gainesville Florida for the February 10th show. In a story that would make a Felice Brothers song, i checked into the Holiday Inn, on University Ave at 11am. I was in my room for no more than 30 seconds and three plain clothes police officers barged into my room and took me to the floor, They pointed their guns at me and were holding me because they thought i had just robbed a bank. They asked why i was in Gainesville, and i said " to see the Felice Brothers". "Who the fuck are they",they asked, then they really didn't believe me. Thirty minutes later i was free, after i was not positively identified by the homeless guy who was standing in front of the hotel when the bank robber, who did look like me, ran into the Holiday Inn, (they did catch the guy 2 days later, he was a pedophile. ) I met Searcher, about four hours before the show, and found he was as courteous as Simone usually is. The band parked their bus, err jalopy, out on
University Ave. A friend poked his head in to wish them luck and said he saw Ian smoking a cigarette down to a nub. Nothing but filter. He yelled for them to play "Goddamn You Jim". Around 7:00 pm we headed towards the venue, and stopped at Gator Beverage Company for a couple of refreshments. As i walked in the clerk was complaining (not to me, but as a general complaint to the customers) that the "fucking Felice Brothers were just here and they smelled like steak". Now i don't know what that means, or if he didn't mean "steak" and his accent made me miss the word "stink", i am not sure, but i know it wasn't meant as a compliment.
The show followed similar form as it did in Charleston, with our requested "Goddamn You Jim" nestled in the middle of the set. Highlights were "Memphis Flu", "Ballad of Lou the Welterweight" and their collaborations with Old Crow "Wagon Wheel", "Tell it Me" and David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust". "Wagon Wheel" a Dylan tune from the Pat Garret and Billy the Kid project, is a great single, but its even better with the percussion and mayhem the Felice Brothers give it. "Ziggy" sent the crowd into a frenzy. Many female fans in the crowd appeared to be quite distraught that Simone was not in attendence. There was several calls for "Scarecrow" during the show. To be fair, while i am not sure Searcher is that experienced a drummer, his heavy hands are a real asset. His power is evident throughout the show and was more apparent in the smaller venue in Gainesville. The band again milled around after the show and greeted some fans.
In Tampa the next day, the band put on its best show since that night in Brooklyn. Before the show, Farley marched the streets of downtown Tampa with his big bass drum, Christmas, Searcher and Ian huddled behind a set of stairs eating take out food very curiously, like vampires at the break of dawn, they looked very odd (which is why we love them), while Old Crow walked the streets as confident professionals. James threw his hat down in front of the Tampa Theater and played for dollars and talked with fans. The show was blistering once again. They opened with "Hey Hey Revolver" and a scorching "Run Chicken Run" and finished with "Ziggy" and even sprinkled in "frankie's Gun" which had the place rocking. Christmas traded lead vocal on "Buried in Ice" with Ian, and did it in pure Van Morrison style, back to the audience!. His vocals were very good. Ian, sporting a Good Year, baseball cap, was once again at peak form, displaying the vocals that
make him a vocalist on the level with Levon Helm, Lowell George and Willie Nelson, he has a voice for the ages, and he has as many tales to tell as anyone. The grit in his voice explained hoplessness, the experiences and the choices facing the characters in songs like "Revolver" and "Penn Station" as much as the words ever could.
Farley was wild all night. He ran across the stage like a cross between Flava Flav and the retarded kid from middle school gym class.


1. Hey Hey Revolver
2. Run Chicken Run
3. Whiskey in my Whiskey
4. Murder by Mistletoe
5. Big Surprise
6. Loves me Tenderly
7. Buried in Ice
8. Ruby Mae
9. Penn Station

With OCMS:
Tennessee Pusher
like a Hurricane
Tulsa time?
Wagon Wheel
Tell It to Me
We are all in this Together
Frankies gun
Tonight's the Night