Saturday, August 29, 2009


The Mix Tape CD has finally arrived as The Felice Brothers hit the road on the Fall leg of their world tour. I greeted this wondrous gift with subdued expectations, seeing it was likely a album of outtakes, and a gift for hardcore fans who are a small but loyal crew. Many of these songs are well known to fans who have heard some of these numbers in the live shows for months or years. Much to most fans delight will be the inclusion of longtime requested number "White Limo" on this set of nine songs. (No its not called "Cincinnati Queen"). The drums are manned, by Simone Felice (New Mexico and Captain's Wife), Dave Turbeville (Forever Green, Ahab, Let Me Come Home), and Jeremy "The Searcher" Backofen (White Limo, Marlboro Man, Marie).

The first track is a standout acoustic ballad "Forever Green" , which sounds like an older song from perhaps the Iantown era. It features beautiful fiddle from Greg Farley and some wonderful lyrics by Ian Felice, of the occupational hazards of love.
"Ahab" with Christmas taking lead vocal, follows, apparently inspired by his reading the Melville classic in the past year. Christmas compares his plight in love with the monomaniacal captain of the Pequod. "White Limo" furnished with new lyrics, is an explosive success. Unlike "Memphis Flu", from Yonder is the Clock, which mostly failed to capture the energy it had on stage and stumbled, "Limo" brings the music up to date. The best show closing number from a mainstream rock unit since "Rosalita", (and featuring a similar swirling organ frenzy) it packs a massive 3 minute wallop.

white legs, white lies, white wedding gown
just a little red to paint the town.
could you meet me at the ghetto gate(s)?
where the goons, and the grifters wait

Searcher's heavy hands provide a powerful backbeat.

A James Felice song, apparently written mostly as a teen, follows. "Let Me Come Home" cools off the listener after the barn-burning "White Limo". A mature tale of the prodigal son returning home (Luke 15:11-32) Jimmy pleads with his family for forgiveness, as his weary soul longs for their acceptance;

"My Brother, I know that i stole her,
but brother you did not own her.
Brother, you were a friend of mine,
and i thought you'd be with me on that firing line"

One of the finest songs James has written and sounds like an instant classic. "Captain's Wife" is a smokey barroom number in the vein of "Helen Fry" or "Cypress Grove", with Ian on lead vocal. Not sure if this songs heroine has any relationship to Mary Anne Patten, the 19th century wife of a ship's captain, who became a great symbol for feminism over the next 100 years, but it wouldn't be the first time Ian has tackled such a heroine, (Edith Cavell, "St. Stephens End").
"New Mexico" is a James Felice tune that likely borrows more from his major literary influences (Cormac McCarthy) than any rock and roll muse. "Blood Meridien" was a likely nicked before by Ian, (Reverend Green in "Wonderful Life") and this violent tale, also compared often to Melville's "Moby Dick" is an apparent influence. James sings it wonderfully, with Ian taking the lower register.
"17 Years" is a piano ballad that sounds like it could have been on the "Big Empty" album. Its the tale of a young friend who washes ashore in Tarrytown, Ny. Its a sad goodbye, to his friend, and youth.

"Stood outside your window, I couldn't see within
Your curtains faintly stirring like a restless living thing
i lit a smoke as morning broke
i knew it would be a while
before i find piece of mind"

"Marie" follows, with the most stunning songwriting Ian Felice has flashed since "Frankie's Gun". Like "Frankie", this number is instantly recognizable, with lyrics that are clever, funny and memorable. Each verse is sung by a different member of the band, with Greg Farley's contribution being especially delicious,

"I thought i was sharp enough,
I read Moby Dick and stuff
I guess i ain't smart enough for you,
All i'm asking you Marie
is spend one more fare on me
Give me one more night"

"Marlboro Man" from the Daytrotter Sessions, is updated here with a much spookier, electrified sound. Its another standout track. It features beautiful guitar work by Ian as well as nice accents by James and Greg.

One surprise, is the lack of inclusion of Greg Farley's standout tune, "Song for Gramps" as a tenth track. It sounds like one of their better songs, from its live performances of late and perhaps they are saving it for a more official release in the spring of 2010.

Mix Tape if it is just a series of outtakes, still has excellent continuity as the theme of unattainable love runs throughout the record. It also may be one of their best collection of songs. While it doesn't boast the unique sound of their debut album with it horn and vocal arrangements, and the brilliant production of Searcher, (in fact this album sounds as it were simply recorded live in the chicken coop studio near their home), it contains songs that will likely become a big part of the Felice Brothers history. Mostly it shows why they are quickly becoming an American treasure, this is their 5th release in the last 3 years, and the second album in six months. They are not caught up in the hype that surrounds the band, or building cults of personality, they are keeping it "real", doing one for the fans, again, and moving on down the road.

-special thanks to a certain person who helped with some of the details that i missed.


Nothing Gold can Stay: Great review in Rolling Stone Germany

The Album takes the top spot in the Critics charts and a 4 star review!! link below

“The duo created ten fascinating beautiful happy-sad-songs that will be part of the best we heard of in 2009, till the end of this year and beyond.”

“Singing about New Yorks street kids in the 80s, about the parking lot that Jesus forgot about and mama’s bad pills, and thereby being rooted that deep in the 70s [...] while letting it sound as if it really concerns us nowadays – no, there was no other before that managed it that convincingly and affectingly like Simone Felice.”

“”And, boy did I want my MTV” – you never expected such line affecting you that strongly.”

“Golden moments, that will stay.”



THe Duke and the King at the Iota Review

Words by: Donald Lusk | Images by: Avalon Peacock/

The Duke and the King :: 08.16.09 :: Iota Café :: Arlington, VA

The Duke & The King
This past winter, Felice Brothers drummer/songwriter Simone Felice and his good friend Robert "Chicken" Burke holed themselves up in a cabin in the Catskills region to work on some songs. With shimmering harmonies and a cracked country-soul core, their CD Nothing Gold Can Stay arrived to universal critical acclaim in early August. They set out on a two-week tour of the East Coast, and I was lucky to catch one of the first shows in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church. I needed more than that though, so I was pleased to see that the tour wound down somewhat nearby in Arlington, VA.

The Duke & The King are comprised of Simone Felice, of The Felice Brothers, in the lead role as frontman and guitarist. Burke, The King, comes by way of Sweet Honey in the Rock, doubles on bass and drums. Nowell Haskins (The Deacon) is the main drummer (although on any given song they each could play someone else's instrument) and a sultry violinist by the name of Simi rounds out the quartet. One might be surprised by the lack of Felice-like rowdiness, but the same warmth and camaraderie associated with the Brothers clearly is the order of the day here as well.

Iota is a small restaurant/bar in the middle of Arlington, and felt homey as the crowd began to form. The Duke & The King made their way to the stage, and after brief hellos, went into "Don't Wake the Scarecrow," a Felice Brothers classic. In the Felice's hands it's a brooding postcard of a prostitute's life that builds to a slow climax. Live at Iota, it was like a work of deconstructive punk, with Simone parsing out the lyrical phrases over staccato runs of his hollow body guitar. An intense performance ended when The Deacon alone was given the song's final verse.

Simone Felice
With "The Morning I Get To Hell" from the new CD, the music became warmer. The combination of the three voices formed some beautiful peaks and valleys, almost like a hip-hop inspired Crosby, Stills and Nash. Next up was "Union Street," and again the vocals soared. On a song that goes from small town drug use to the need to have "all the houses lit up on Union Street," it's the quasi-psychedelic chorus that drives home the longing of having the whole world together again. They switched gears and left the stage entirely to Robert The King to perform "I've Been Bad." Really a fragment of a song, with three simple lines over an acoustic folk vamp, The Kings's voice shined as he detailed his regrets.

Back with the full group, Simone hits into "Water Spider," a sweet song about Harriet Tubman, amongst others. This song contains a key line when discussing these performers: "Jesus walked on water, but so did Marvin Gaye." It embodies the spirit of both the CD and performance, where they aspire to the quality of 1970s vocalizations. "Summer Morning Rain," with its hopeful take on a winter loss, benefited from beautiful lines from Simi's violin. "Radio Song," a Felice Brothers favorite with its chorus of "Please don't you ever die," got the Iota crowd singing and swaying to the groove. After a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless," the band finished up with "One More American Song." Sort of a continuation of "Union Street," it's a personal tale of longing and hopefulness amid returning damaged army boys and the likelihood that we will never all again be singing the same song in this fragmented world. Here, Simone breathes new life into the dream of everyone being "the best of friends and the music sewed us together," while lamenting, "Gasoline ain't gonna take us that way again." Passionately delivered, the group stepped off the stage and began the hug fest that dominates the end of their shows, where the bond between the performers and audience is tight.

The Duke & The King won over many converts at Iota, as well across the Northeast. They will continue to evolve into Simone's dream of a vocal soul band. The players have terrific chemistry, and the care they show for each other resonates from the stage and beyond. On their way to the U.K. currently, I can't wait for their return so I can hear one more American song.


Cooperstown hailed in Paste Magazine

Any time you can mix ghosts, baseball, and Bob Dylan into the same song, you're doing all right. That's what The Felice Brothers do on their song "Cooperstown" from their latest album Yonder Stands the Clock.

It's hazy and indistinct, propelled by accordion wheezes and guitar strums, and those snarling Dylan words that are, impossibly, written and sung by somebody named Ian Felice. And like a lot of the songs that Dylan sings, it communicates a great deal without making a lot of literal sense. The ghost of Ty Cobb wanders the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. There's a church service, perhaps a funeral, going on. And then we're back in 1905, a young Ty Cobb on the basepaths, a young woman watching him from the stands. And from there it gets seriously weird and metaphysical.

For those who may not be familiar with the man, Ty Cobb may have been the greatest baseball player to ever play the game. And he was universally despised; a mean, contentious sonofabitch who never had a kind word for anybody, and who came into a base with spikes flying, determined to injure any poor schlep who happened to be between him and his goal. In the summer of 1905, his mother gunned down his father. Three weeks later, he played his first game for the Detroit Tigers. And he spent the next 21 years with a chip on his shoulder, daring anyone to stand in his way.

So a line like "he had a game like a war machine" sounds just about perfect to me, as does the line about the wolves that stand between first and third. I think I've been in that game. It's a great song; a fever dream of a bygone era, poetry excavated from the Georgia clay, simultaneously earthy and transcendent.

American Songwriter interview with Simone Felice



Simone Felice’s journey from his sibling-led group, The Felice Brothers, to his new band with Robert “Chicken” Burke, The Duke & The King, lends itself to various interpretations. Sonically, it marks a shift from country-rock leanings to mellowed, harmony-sweetened country-soul, though he considers both styles incidental: “The Felice Brothers don’t try to sound like that—they just sound like that. And for me, it’s the same.”

Lyrically, Felice intensified The Felice Brothers’ literary sensibilities, weaving strong narrative threads through the ten songs on The Duke & The King’s debut, Nothing Gold Can Stay.

But nothing gets at the heart of Felice’s move from one to the other like generational theory. He was The Felice Brothers’ sole Gen X-er (everybody else being of Generation Y), and had a full decade on the youngest band member. For a group built on close familial ties, spirited music and the scrappy, collective pursuit of an audience, that didn’t matter. Until it did.

Not that Felice had put the generational difference into words before being asked to during the interview for this article: “I didn’t sit down and think of it that way. But when you articulate it that way, it does make a lot of sense… I’m at a little different place in my life and I’ve had a lot of time on earth to have the kind of tragedies and jubilance that it takes to maybe write some different kinds of songs.”

(No doubt, one of the tragedies he’s alluding to is losing the baby he and his longtime partner were expecting last winter. He told fans of the experience—and his new musical venture—in an open letter.)

A song Felice contributed to the latest Felice Brothers album, Yonder Is the Clock, foreshadowed the direction he’d pursue on Nothing Gold; “All When We Were Young” is a reflection on youthful freedom receding in the rearview. “When I wrote “All When We Were Young”—I never really thought about it this way, but you just sort of brought it out of me—it opened that door,” says Felice. “The Duke & The King record, it’s all just true stories about the way my heart felt when I was a little kid, when I first got turned on to music.”

With Burke, a longtime friend who’s worked with George Clinton and a capella group Sweet Honey In the Rock, Felice captured a particular season of life, one still close enough to youth to call to mind its innocent—and not-so-innocent—pleasures in detail, but beyond the point of retrieving them. Between album opener “If You Ever Get Famous,” pivotal tracks “Still Remember Love” and “Union Street” and closer “One More American Song,” a group of friends go from cruising around with ripped jeans, big dreams and fervently shared musical tastes to adulthood’s isolation and narrowing possibilities.

All that’s to say, Felice’s new project pursues different themes than his work with The Felice Brothers. But there’s important continuity, too. Yonder is a Mark Twain reference; so is The Duke & The King, the names of two swindlers in Huckleberry Finn.

“Here they are rolling down the river, and they’re setting up these bootleg Shakespeare shows,” Felice summarizes. “And it reminded me of how The Felice Brothers used to be when we first started. We used to just drive up and down the Hudson River and play anywhere we could, in any bar, in any subway…. And then also what happens to the Duke and the King is that they get tarred and feathered, obviously, at the end. So, for me, when it came time for us to say, ‘Hey, what are we going to call ourselves,’ [I said], ‘Man, if we call ourselves the duke and the king, then it’ll remind us that we need to be honest and to never roll down that road to getting tarred and feathered.’”

Hometown: Catskill Mountains, New York

Age: 32

An early musical influence: My mom had the Joni Mitchell record Blue and she played it everyday.

Glide Magazine review of "Nothing Gold can Stay"

The Duke & The King
Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Doug Collette
August 26, 2009

Glide Mag

It would demean The Duke and The King to say it's an offshoot of The Felice Brothers, but Nothing Gold Can Stay does radiate the same rustic (thought slightly ominous) charm of the Catskill Mountain clan’s music.

Simone Felice teams with George Clinton/Sweet Honey in the Rock staple Robert "Chicken" Burke to produce a piece of work that, by dint of a density rooted in detailed production more than compensates for its abbreviated running time (just over thirty minutes).
This painstaking approach, in turn, is a reflection of the carefully-wrought material. "If You Ever Get Famous" is a simple benediction, couched in honest skepticism, cushioned with affection, the emotional content mirrored in the clarity of the acoustic guitars at the heart of the arrangement. If the drum machines sound quietly and irritatingly mechanical within "The Morning I Get to Hell," they're meant to: the singer imagines commiserating with Lucifer in the devil’s eternal playground.

Felice’s fragile voice and tender delivery are particularly affecting as he sings "Still Remember Love," and equally so when, in "Union Street," he addresses the "prettiest girl in town;" meanwhile the quiet horror of 9/11 in New York City haunts in the background of the latter cut via the deeply resonating bass and resounding though muffled drums.

The artist’s pseudonyms taken from Mark Twain's Huck Finn, Nothing Gold Can Stay’s ornate package features a vintage television and a four-track cassette tape but sounds and feels utterly contemporary. When the ambient rush of "Lose My Self" gives way to the back-porch simplicity of "Suzanne," the dobro, harmonica and soft falsetto may not directly recall Bob Dylan and The Band's Basement Tapes, but hearken to that rootsy approach. Yet The Duke and The King, in quietly melancholy but ultimately optimistic songs such as "Summer Morning Rain" and "One More American Song," transcend those influences and any easy comparisons.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Duke and the King in Ragged Words

”What’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong and the wages is just the same.”
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter. 16.

It was inevitable that Jim and Huckleberry Finn would meet at least one or two charlatans. But two together? The two grafters, drifters from all around, were known simply as The Duke and The King. One was youngish, around thirty, the other much older around seventy. The Duke, of Bridgewater, proclaimed himself his father’s rightful successor and The King claimed – why wouldn’t you know it – himself the rightful King of France. Aboard the make-shift raft Jim and Finn assembled, one pair leads the other into trouble, scheming their way down the Mississippi.

But no one’s scheming here.

The Duke and King here are Simone Felice and Robert Burke respectively. This, their debut album, is homespun from the roving world of the southern states, created by the very environment around the two freebirds. The ten tracks assembled encompass the wild wide world out there. Simone on vocals brings C,S,N&Y to mind or Jeff Buckley perhaps. The former due in turn to the beautiful bending, folding melodies and sincerity; the latter due to the buzzing reverb, the ghostly high notes floating around in the background, the emotional waves. The guitars range from the simple chords of ‘If you get famous’ to the fuzzy, crashing highlight that is ‘Lose Myself.’ There are not a lot of bands around these days, let alone a duet, that can emulate the meandering qualities on show here.

Though there is exceptionally fraught, fragile heartache and heartbreak here, there are tender moments like ‘Still Remember’ that edge closer to enjoyable pop and away from the bluesy folk for a while. ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ is a breath of fresh air. It’s that salon door opening out into the clear skies. It’s a gentle ship on a rolling river. What the album misses in instant pop hooks, it splashes about here and there with gorgeous simplicity; some gospel honesty, some elevated touches of bliss and some very beautifully crafted moments. Every word is meant. Every confused, rattled emotion is pointedly displayed for those willing to listen. They should form a super-uber group with Fleet Foxes and bask in the winning results; sleep on mattresses stuffed with money on their gigantic riverboats and enjoy a rockstar booze cruise down the Mississippi and off into a blazing horizon.

Mixtape Album: tracklist

1. Forever Green
2. Ahab
3. White Limo
4. Let Me Come Home
5. Captain's Wife
6. New Mexico
7. 17 Years
8. Marie
9. Marlboro Man

pick up a copy at the upcoming Felice Brothers dates.

available on tour only.

September 2009
Wednesday 2 | German House, Rochester, NY - more info
Thursday 3 | Oberlin College / Dionysus Club, Oberlin, OH - more info
Friday 4 | Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY - more info
Saturday 5 | Chameleon Club, Lancaster, PA - more info
Sunday 6 | The Positive Jam, Ithaca, NY - more info
Friday 18 | Von Braun Center / Opening for OCMS, Huntsville, AL - more info
Saturday 19 | Proud Larry's, Oxford, MS - more info
Sunday 20 | George's Majestic Lounge, Fayetteville, AR - more info
Tuesday 22 | Santa Fe Brewing Co., Santa Fe, NM - more info
Sunday 27 | Grey Eagle Tavern & Music Hall, Asheville, NC - more info
Monday 28 | The Pour House, Charleston, SC - more info
Tuesday 29 | The 40 Watt, Athens, GA - more info

October 2009
Saturday 3 | Austin City Limits Festival, Austin, TX - more info
Saturday 3 | Official ACL Aftershow at Emo's Inside, Austin, TX - more info
Monday 12 | Lido, Berlin, Germany - more info
Tuesday 13 | Ubel und Gefahrlich, Hamburg, Germany - more info
Wednesday 14 | Kulturkirche, Cologne, Germany - more info
Thursday 15 | Atomic, Munich, Germany - more info
Saturday 17 | Brudenell Social Club-SOLD OUT, Leeds, UK, England - more info
Sunday 18 | Whelans, Dublin, Ireland - more info
Monday 19 | The Glee Club, Birmingham, UK, England - more info
Tuesday 20 | Academy 3, Manchester, England - more info
Thursday 22 | Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK, England - more info
Saturday 24 | Paradiso (upstairs), Amsterdam, Netherlands - more info
Monday 26 | Tivoli, Utrecht, Netherlands - more info

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Washington City Paper: Interview with James Felice

“Hey, there’s an interview goin’ on in here, asshole!” James Felice calls out the door of the Winnebago in the direction of guitar music. His brother Ian is strumming outside with a wild-eyed, fu-manchu’ed man named Searcher, who is singing along in falsetto.

Searcher pokes his head through the passenger’s side window. “Hey, you don’t need to call people ‘asshole,’ douchebag!”

Ian’s nasal voice arrives with the crown of his head at the side door. “I had to get the secret cigarette I keep here.” He produces a cigarette from somewhere.

“There’s only one? Ah, fuck.” says James.

“Yeah, and you don’t get one, you know why?” says Searcher through the front window.

“There’s an interview goin’ on in here!”

These are the Felice Brothers at home. They’ve lived in the beat-up Winnebago for the duration of their summer tour opening for Old Crow Medicine Show—the two brothers, their bassist, their fiddle player, two drummers, and their tour manager. It’s a crowded little cavern, with every surface buried beneath clothes, books, and miscellaneous clutter. There’s a tub full of beer, wine, and ice on the floor inside the door. James has poured us Delirium Nocturnum ale in plastic cups.

“Even though I specifically asked him to get a cigarette for you and I, do you know why you don’t get one now?” says Searcher.

“No, I was calling Ian the asshole,” James explains, grinning.

“Let’s smoke a cigarette, then!”

“I’m doing an interview here!”

“Yeah? Maybe he wants to interview me too.” Searcher has climbed in and is now kneeling backwards on the front passenger’s seat. Ian, meanwhile, has begun smoking the cigarette. “I’m in the band, does he even know who I am?”

I know he’s the drummer, but only because James told me a few minutes earlier. (The third Felice brother, Simone, had been the drummer before he left the band in June to start a new project.) I feel I should speak.

“You’re Searcher.”

“See!” Seacher says triumphantly. “Apparently some people know who I am. Who are you? James Felice? The fuck.”

On stage, the Felice Brothers aren’t much different. They drink, they smoke, they stumble into one another, they laugh and fuck around and improvise. They invite the audience in on the party; then sometimes they’re so preoccupied with their own shenanigans they seem to forget the audience is there. These moments of exclusivity are as seductive the band’s gregariousness. You want to be in on the joke.

In the beginning, the Felice Brothers were just playing for themselves. The sons of non-musical parents in upstate New York, the three oldest boys were a band—playing at their father’s cookouts—long before they had achieved any level of mastery on their instruments. “We were really the only ones listening to us,” says James, who ditched piano for the accordion when the brothers trekked south to busk in Manhattan subway stations. Now he plays both.

One of the more appealing aspects of the Felice Brothers’ music is its intimacy. Dancing and clowning around to their own music, they tend to look like jubilant (read: drunk) members of their own audience who happen to be holding instruments. Now, as they’ve started getting picked up to tour with acts like Conor Oberst and Old Crow, the audience has gotten bigger and farther away.

“The last two weeks, we’ve been playing these huge places with Old Crow and Gil and Dave [Gillian Welch and David Rawlings] and stuff,” he says. “The show changes a little bit, you know? It’s less—like, when you’re playing a little bar with a 150 people, they’re right there, and you can grab beers from them, or yell at them, and they can yell at you, or they come on stage and fuck around with you, and there’s no security or anything so it’s all very free-flowing, and the only reason you’re still playing is because they haven’t come on stage and fuckin’ stopped you yet, you know what I’m saying? So there’s like a push-and-pull with the audience when you’re right down there with ‘em. ‘Cause if they’re not having fun then they don’t fuckin’ care, they’ll leave, or they’ll throw beer at you, or trash the stage, you know? So when you’re playing these big places, and there’s all sorts of security and shit, it’s much more of a show. Much more of a theatrical thing, I guess. So the playing has to be better—you can’t get away with anything anymore, ‘cause not everyone’s drunk.”

“Do you have to drink less before the show?” I ask.

“Eeeee no,” James says, and laughs. “Yeah, kinda, you want to. And it’s more responsibility. Playing in small shows is probably funner. It’s definitely funner. But I think you can express yourself more with the big shows, ‘cause there’s lights and stuff, and the sound is usually like a hundred times better. You get to play rockstar”—he refills my beer, adding, “—kind of, in a weird, sad sort of way.”

He mutters these last few words under a grin. I don’t pursue it, but I think about it later while transcribing my tape of the interview. I can’t decide which he finds weird and sad: the idea that they could play rockstars, or the concept of ‘playing rockstar’ in general. It might have been the former—a token nod to the self-deprecation you’re supposed to exhibit in interviews. But then, the Felice Brothers’ entire act does seem to mock the rockstar pose. It’s messy, unglamorous, unadorned; there’s an overwhelming sense that hey, these are just regular folks. It’s no coincidence that their albums are relentlessly compared to The Basement Tapes—recordings made by Bob Dylan and The Band in the basement of a house about 20 miles from where the Felice Brothers grew up. One of the most critically acclaimed compilations when it was eventually released, The Basement Tapes were distinctly anti-rockstar: recorded desultorily and, at least originally, for the sole pleasure of the players.

James Felice claims that he and his bandmates have never listened to The Basement Tapes. “I don’t even really feel like it,” he says, chuckling. “First of all, I don’t know why we sound like that, ‘cause I never heard it. But you know I don’t really give a fuck. Who fuckin’ cares, you know, we play the kind of music that we want to play, and if people think it sounds like fuckin’ Bela Fleck, or Beethoven, or fuckin’ mystery jizz, I don’t really give a shit.”

When the Felice Brothers aren’t busy not listening to The Basement Tapes, they often listen to musicians they sound absolutely nothing like: hip-hop artists. This might seem surprising, but it makes more sense than you’d think. “The similarities between country and hip-hop are amazing,” James says. “Coming up in poor places, you sing about the same sort of things, like money, about girls, about guns, about your ride, your mother—the whole gamut’s the same. You know, Jimmie Rogers was, like, the father of modern country, you know, and he’s always singing about his ‘gat’—he used the word ‘gat,’ that’s where it came from!”

Outside of music, the Felice Brothers’ influences, James says, are largely literary. “We read a shitload,” he explains. “If we just wrote about how we live, our songs would be pretty boring. They’d all be about riding around in a Winnebago, or sitting around at home not knowing what to do, or going to a bar, feeling really awkward for an hour, and going home.” A quick survey of the Winnebago turns up a litter of dog-eared paperbacks—The Sun Also Rises, The Portable Nietszche, Tales of Ordinary Madness. “Faulkner, Hemingway, McCarthy, Thomas Pyncheon. Russian literature… Just anything we can get our hands on.” One particularly influential muse has been Cormac McCarthy, author of No Country for Old Men, whom James says he has been reading since he was 15. He says he’s glad for McCarthy’s newfound fame, but can’t help but feel protective of what had been, until, recently, his own personal discovery. I begin to understand his frustration about being pegged as a derivative of The Basement Tapes.

“When we started, we didn’t even think about it,” he says. “We played that kind of music because we loved that kind of music—but also all we had was an acoustic guitar. You know, what other kind of music are we going to play?”

As for the next record, James says anything is game—synthesizers, orchestral arrangements, whatever. “It’s going places that are weird and scary, probably. Hopefully. You can’t play the same music your whole life.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Washington City Paper on the Rte 29 Revue in Columbia MD

the Felice Brothers, an outfit of Yankee good ol’ boys from upstate New York. The Felice Brothers honed their chops in juke joints and subway stations and recorded their first two albums in a chicken coop, so they seemed out a bit out of place on the Merriweather stage. But it was clear right away that we were to play by their rules. Everybody was out of their seats by the second song, clapping and singing along to “Whiskey in My Whiskey,” “Run Chicken Run,” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Two Hands”—struggling all the while to match the energy of the band, whose members would run in circles, crash into each other, and take turns dancing on top of the kick drum (occasionally whaling on the cymbals with a washboard).


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BYT: The Felice Brothers win the Battle of the Bands

Live DC: Route 29 (Iron & Wine, Felice Brothers, Levon Helm et al) @ Merriweather
August 18, 2009 by Peter ShareThis Send to a Friend Send to a Friend

all photos by: Paul Goodman
all words by: Peter Heyneman

There comes a time in a man’s life where he falls gently into the lap of a big fat sunlight festival of a certain variety. It’s roughly about the same time that it becomes more appropriate for him to sing the Eagles than R. Kelly at karaoke night. When you’re young you avoid the fields and the mudpits and overpriced water because you’re both broke and well stocked in badass rock and roll at the local VFW thanks very much, but somehow one day you’re 30 and lying sunburned on a towel with a half-drunk on and the sun’s setting and Wilco or something is playing on the other side of a football field and you get up and dance with the dirty-feeting teenagers from Southern Maryland because goddamn it you have to work tomorrow and every day for the rest of your life. So I jumped about a mile out of my desk chair when I saw the line-up for the Route 29 show at Merriweather Post this Sunday, and I had to borrow a car and head out there. I couldn’t do it every weekend, or even more than say, twice a year, but a long down-home country-alt fest just hits the spot sometimes, almost like hiking, or going to mass and receiving the wafer and the wine. Sometimes being bored and depressed is as close to relaxed as old folks can get.

Justin Jones looked hot and sounded somewhat disappointed by the milling steamy mass. “Is this a High School talent show? I hope we win,” he told the muttering khaki folks as they started filing in at 3:30. Their music isn’t going to win any awards for originality but after I left the big iron tent in front of the stage and lay on the grass under the furnace with my shoes off and pulled a tiny airplane bottle of Jack Daniels out of my pocket and dumped it into a 4 dollar pink Gatorade and chugged it as his steel guitar soaked regretfully through the air then I started feeling it a lot more better. He’s a handsome handsome man, I’ll give him that; hunched up there on the big screen he looked like a lost fighter pilot waiting for a chopper out of Hanoi still running guns into Cambodia. “The first prize is tickets to the big football game again St. Mary’s,” he claimed. I could tell it was going to be a day like that, I could tell.

The Felice Brothers were one of the main reasons I came along to this show and they managed to defy both the heat and the marked lack of drunkenness to get everyone to believe it was 2am on a Friday at a shitty blues pub in Knoxville. They popped out and started blasting through boozy, messy, limestone slabs of folk rock with the same No Limit Records baller bullshit attitude that makes the Black Lips better than a garage band too. How the fuck is this fair? Somehow these kids from Upstate NY who moved to Brooklyn and wore vests and stupid porkpie hats and worshiped Café Wha and memorized Richard Farina and smoked a million cigarettes (kids of which type there are only 8 million in NY) dug themselves a hole so deep they hit real gravel, the gravel left there by a construction company in the mid-70s making a mausoleum for Ramblin’ Jack to lie down in. Ian Felice’s voice sound 1000 years old and his wispy mustache and goofy overly serious stoned expression make you believe he traded all his marbles for it with the devil, who loves to play marbles, even now.

The other brother James is huge and smokes while he bends over the Wurlitzer. They played sea shanties and land shanties. The fiddle player hit a cymbal with his washboard. They played a song about Jesus and Old Crow Medicine Show dudes snuck out and rattled stuff and played electric guitars. They fell out of tune and they stood on the amps and somehow made a song about a dead chicken seem fucking portentous. When they were done they all hugged each-other wildly and threw their stupid hats in the air. It was obvious; improbably, and against all odds, they had won the Battle of the Bands. I felt so close to Paradise that I could actually sense Beatrice’s hand slip into mine firmly and pull upwards, into the burning circle of the center of existence that spins forever at the tiptop of the diamond shaped universe.

Then Grace Potter came out wearing a totally ridiculous shimmery dress that made her boogie knees stick out like whack-a-moles and vamped like a bobo 90s Aretha and it hit me: I had heatstroke. Her music would be perfect if I was trying to get my Dad laid but it sounded utterly phony and slick after the gorgeous outlaws that just played so I went into the way-back of the giant field and lat on a shady bench and stared into the trees and imagined what it will be like to be dead until she was over. Wait! No she was doing an encore by popular demand of herself. “Thanks a lot we’re done slight pause do you want to hear some more really aw shucks!” Maybe if I was not dehydrated and sobering up it would have been less grating, but she sounded like that Black Velvet bitch backed up my Southern Country On the Skids. Barf. I did.

After way too long to get all of her shit out of there Sam Beam walked out with a magnificent beard glowing in the sunset and whispered courageously into a maw of yodeling drunks for 45 minutes. I’ve been an insane fan of his since I heard Jesus the Mexican Boy on a pirate college radio station (MAX ALT HIT POINTS UNLOCKED) and I never went to see him live because I was sure I would be bored without the overdriven dual harmonies recorded on cheap analog tape. I was not wrong, but it was that sleepy hippie boredom I’d been craving. Half-dozing to the familiar songs played flawlessly and nimbly, I realized at one point that a weird muted singalong had started and he was singing the harmony part of Sodom South Georgia to the crowd murmuring the melody and stopping at the ends of the lines, bringing a thousand people to dead silence. I wanted to give him a big Felice Brothers hug, but I doubt he is not a hologram or Civil War phantom. Nobody with a beard that luxuriant could be corporeal.

By the time Levon Helm’s “band” came out and made mediocre middle aged Blues noises I was in the happy field place where I don’t really give a shit what goes on as long as I’m drinking vaguely bobbing and stomping in the dust with the rest of the beggars. Two bronze teenage chicks from West Virginia sexydanced together completely oblivious to the boys who brought them there. A massive meathead with arms like willow roots poking out of his tie-dyed tanktop hunched under his lowbrimmed terps cap and stepped from foot to foot brandishing two Bud-lite bottles as totems. Levon Helm of the Band was too old and sick to sing so various kindhearted session musicians did it for him but nobody cared and the sun went down cheerfully.

Old Crow Medicine Show was great but I was complexly erased by that point. I’m really really glad they exist, because bluegrass is really as punk rock as Blues or Irish toodle shit and Jon Spencer and the Pogues already exist so why not? Traditional fans and rednecks and garage rockers and hardcore Boston dudes and bronze WV teenagers can get behind it, but my brain hurt. They just jumped around a lot or something as far as I know, but my knees were shot and night time is hardly the right time for loud fiddle music, even if they’re doing Eric Burdon and Stones covers, so I went home woozy and joyful before they even did Wagon Wheel, which I bet they did right after I left goddamnit. I’ll put it on twice next time I’m at the Tune Inn just for revenge against myself.

Let me put it this way, there’s only a certain portion of your life that will be golden, the proximity of which is like the physical body of a girl you have a hopeless crush on—when she’s there, you’re useless, so don’t try to do anything. You only figure this out once you’re old though, when the information doesn’t do you any good. The best you can do is be very very still and let things pass by you without thinking about them too much, blunting your overactive imagination against the walls of your tomb as it’s being built, brick by brick, until you are just nothing, the blue sweet melted dregs of a snowcone at the bottom of a styrofoam cup, tilted back, touching the lips, then gone, forever. See you next year!

The Duke and the King get notice from Live Power Rankings (DC)

3. The Duke & The King, Iota, Sunday

Bad timing for the band on this one. The Duke & the King features Simone Felice, former drummer of the Felice Brothers, getting out from behind the kit and taking center stage for a hushed folk thing. It just so happened that his old band was playing as part of the Route 29 Revue the same night, along with the likes of Levon Helm, Old Crow Medicine Show and Iron & Wine up at Merriweather Post Pavilion. So this was another show with a small crowd, but once again the band was in a great mood, maybe because it was the final night of the tour. The sleepy sound of the album was greatly enhanced by an additional drummer and violinist, and when everyone sang in unison it was more folk-gospel-soul than the '70s AM folk on the album. Felice also has plenty of frontman charisma and is a solid storyteller. A band to keep an eye on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Duke and the King on NPR "All Things Considered"

Copyright © 2009 National Public Radio®. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


GUY RAZ, host:

If Simon Felice ever finds himself in hell, he'll manage to somehow make it sound pretty good.

(Soundbite of song, "The Morning I Get to Hell")

Mr. SIMON FELICE (Member, The Duke and the King): (Singing) The morning that I get to Hell, the devil take me up in his Ferris wheel, show me all the scenes of love. Tapping, tick, tack, tap on his black high heels.

RAZ: This song is off the debut album by three musicians who call themselves The Duke and the King. Simon Felice, Robert Burke and Noel Haskins are the three musicians. They got together last winter to record the album in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

Britain's Daily Telegraph called Simon Felice, the greatest singer/songwriter you've never heard. Well, we hope until now.

Simon Felice and Robert Burke join me from our New York bureau. Welcome to the show.

Mr. ROBERT BURKE (Member, The Duke and the King): Good day, Guy.

Mr. FELICE: Hey.

RAZ: This song we're hearing, "The Morning I Get to Hell," it's about an arrival to hell and it' strangely uplifting, it's almost like you're greeting the sunrise.

Mr. BURKE: We figured when you get to hell, there's definitely going to be a drum machine playing there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

So, you know, I grew up reading Dante. It was one of the first things I'd ever read that sort of really took my breath away. And I figured, you know, this is just another way to look at it. Maybe there's Ferris wheel there, maybe there's a television screen playing your whole life back to you. So it's just another kind of circle, a hell is the new kind.

RAZ: Simon Felice, you performed for the last several years with your brothers. Your band is known as the Felice Brothers. You had achieved some critical acclaim. You were getting some attention. Why did you decide to put that on hold?

Mr. FELICE: Well, we were at a point where I was just recording some new songs in the winter time with Robert. And at that time, my longtime love and I, we lost our baby in a late-term miscarriage. And…

RAZ: I'm sorry.

Mr. FELICE: Thank you, Guy. But, you know, it turned my life upside down.

RAZ: Hmm.

Mr. FELICE: And I needed to be closer to home, and the boys all went out on a tour and I had to stay home to take care of her. And in that time, I wrote a bunch of new songs sort of inspired by that. Robert and I were recording and making the record. And we spent about four months up in the woods and kind of snowed in, and a lot of sadness and a lot of joy happening. And we really hoped that it all comes through on the tape. We want it to be a hopeful record.

(Soundbite of song, "Still Remember Love)

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) Seven times in my life I'm looking back. Just like a mirror, you know, smoky, kind of light. You and me running wild in the fields of snow to a different drum in the winter sun, chasing crows. Still remember, still remember love.

RAZ: Simon Felice and Robert Burke, this song "Still Remember Love," can you tell me about it?

Mr. FELICE: Well, that's Robert singing lead on that one. And him and I wrote that song together, all the lyrics. It was a special day. I came into the studio. We were supposed to record another song we were thinking of. And he was sitting on the coach with this melody, singing. And I've known him long enough that when he's got a certain kind of look in his eye…

(Soundbite of laughter)

…that's it's time to work on that song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

So, you know, I said, man, you just keep strumming that, get the mic set up, and I took a walk and I wrote all the verses. And he had written the chorus, still remember love, just thinking about, you know, love lost and, you know, all the trials of what it means to sort of fall in love and fall out of love. And I think we all know about that one.

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) Still remember love. Uh-huh.

RAZ: Simon, can you tell me about the name, The Duke and the King? I'm sure a lot of our listeners will recognize these as characters from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Why did you choose the name for this band?

Mr. FELICE: You know, growing up, literature and books were really important to us, me and my brothers. And I got "Huckleberry Finn" when I was kid and I probably read it 10, 13 times since then.

You know, the thing about the book that really changed my life growing up was I was in a really racist town. And there was race riots against the black kids in the school. You know, in "Huckleberry Finn," it's just a story about a poor, little white kid in the South, instead of turning in this runaway slave, he becomes his best friend, you know?

And that resonated with me in a really powerful way. And then they meet the duke and the king and, you know, they have all these crazy adventures. And I figured it was an homage to that great gift I got as a child from learning that lesson.

RAZ: The duke and the king are charlatans. I mean, they're these grifters who are pretending to be European royalty.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BURKE: I'm the rightful Duke of Bridgewater.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: But I mean, this album is so authentic that it's almost sort of an irony that you've taken that name for your band.

Mr. FELICE: Well, I remember that other story I read when I was a kid called "The Scarlet Letter." I thought about it in that way, you know, when you're - if you wear that name on your chest then it'll help not to make those bad mistakes, you know, kind of like that.

RAZ: We're talking with Simon Felice and Robert Burke. The musicians perform as the Duke and the King.

I want to ask you about the last track on this album. It's called "One More American Song," and it's one of the saddest songs I've heard in a while. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Mr. FELICE: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Marine. My grandpa was in the Marines. And I had a friend who did go into the Marines, and he fought in Iraq and he came back really hurt. And he was over there doing what he thought was right. And I wrote this about him, and thinking back to the time when we were all kids and sort of listening to the boom box and first realizing that sort of music was our religion. And I just hope and pray that our country some day figures out a way to not have to send our boys over there.

RAZ: You brought a guitar with you into the studio, into our New York studio. And together, you will take us out with the last track from your album, "One More American Song."

Simon Felice, Robert Burke, thank you so much.

Mr. FELICE: Thank you so much, Guy.

Mr. BURKE: Thank you, Guy.

RAZ: They perform as The Duke and the King. Their first CD is called "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

(Soundbite of song, "One More American Song")

Mr. FELICE: (Singing) If I had a cinder block for every lie I told, I could have built us a house fine as any city block to keep us out of the cold. Because the winter is long and it's longer in a dead-end town with a gas tank rusting down the street. And cherry tree and every boom box playing loud, and we'd sing along. We'd sing until dawn. It's just one more American song. John was a quiet boy in school. Johnny with the fiery, red hair…

Chicken Wire from Knoxville


Rte 29 Revue: Columbia MD

Short set but very tight.

Marlboro Man
Roll on Arte
River Jordan
Two hands
Chicken run
Chicken Wire
White Limo

Other highlights of the show. Justin Jones was really good. The Levon Helm Band, played without Levon singing b/c voice is needing rest. No matter, as his stellar band still were standouts, as the nights biggest star, legendary sideman Larry Campbell, played and sang wonderfully, and renditions of "it makes no difference" and "the shape I'm In" were eulogies to Rick Danko and Richard Manuel.

Old Crow put on the usual stellar show with guest appearences by the Felice Brothers, and Iron and Wine was fine as well, but a little misplaced in this rocking lineup, and was a particular problem having to follow the mercurial Grace Potter who could steal the spotlight from just about anyone.

Friday, August 14, 2009

AmericanaUK: Nothing Gold Can Stay is Superb

""All our days are just so many waves in the wind"

Erstwhile Felice Brothers Drummer/Vocalist Simon Felice, along with new cohort Robert ‘Chicken’ Burke have mined a rich vein of American storytelling for their debut album (Their Moniker comes from some troublemaking Mark Twain characters for a start).

As has been widely reported already, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ had the saddest genesis imaginable, when Felice and his partner lost the child they were expecting. Prompting something of a life-changing rethink, he quit his sibling’s band just as their popularity approaches an all-time high, and started bravely down a new path. The sense of transience and uncertainty is evident in these thoughtful, wonderfully written songs, but while he may have had every right to let his grief flood these narratives, instead they are imbued with a bright, spacious soul, some regrets but also optimism. The reflection and sadness are outward-looking, aimed more generally at the loss of innocence and more importantly, other people’s lives circling in doubt and inevitable transience.

Felice fans will note that the wonderfully rambunctious grooves of the Brothers have been polished and transformed into spacious, dusty and understated country-soul. Felice’s own vocal here is softer, an understated and emotive croon that surfs perfectly over the top of these careful, sparsely constructed natural feeling songs.

The overall sound is supremely sun-kissed, with swathes of high harmonies shadowing Felice’s every beautiful melodic twist. It is, surprisingly, ‘70s west coast FM rock that seems to be a constant sonic reference (perhaps for nostalgia's sake), though often with enough of a modern rhythmic feel to never feel unsure as to which decade this record was made. That being the case though, some of the strongest (if softer) moments on the album such as ‘Union Street’ have a dark heart lurking not far from the surface “You were the prettiest girl around, but your Ma was a druggy and she kicked you around”

Dusty ballad ‘If You Ever Get Famous’ is fragile & poignant, opening the album with a lump already in it’s throat as in the first couplet Felice begs not to be forgotten amongst the ephemera of someone else’s life moving on. ‘The Morning I get to Hell’ is another quietly spectacular moment, tackling mortality with some grace and wit.

‘Lose Myself’ is all hook and no song, before almost exploding (or rather, erm, losing itself) in a fit of noise, quickly gives way to ‘Suzanne’, certainly the most straight ahead unrepentant soul groove on the album. Elsewhere the cracked and fragile cornerstone ‘One More American Song’ closes the album with tragic tales of ordinary folk returning damaged from the war.

An album about loss, hope, longing, regret, optimism and growing up that doesn’t, despite its languid pace, waste a precious second.

In a word, Superb.


James Felice Interviewed: Nashville City Paper

The New York folk and Americana ensemble The Felice Brothers have appeared in Nashville before, but they openly admit that Thursday's appearance at Riverfront Park is something quite special and unusual.

First, they're part of the heralded multi-artist event being billed as "The Big Surprise Tour" along with Old Crow Medicine Show and The Dave Rawlings Machine with Gillian Welch and Justin Townes Earle. Second, they're doing a rare outside show, and that raises the stakes both sonically and personally for the band.

"We don't do a lot of outside dates other than the occasional festival," James Felice said. "You always have to think about a lot of other things when you're not in an arena, and especially when you're playing in a spot as big as Riverfront Park. The weather might go haywire, you've got to think more about projection and volume, and your set list might change. Plus, you're playing in Nashville, one of the places with more great musicians than probably anywhere else in the country, especially in terms of the type of music that we play.”

Despite the challenges it poses, the high stakes are worth it to play alongside the A-list group of musicians who are both their friends and their inspiration, James said.

“We had been talking with Old Crow about doing some things together for a long tour, and the idea for a big type of traveling revue, where audiences got the chance to see a lot of performances for one price, seemed to be a great idea. When you think about how things have been out on the road for a lot of groups, it also makes really good economic sense,” James said. “But on top of all that, we're a big fan of all these performers. So far, the shows and the vibe have been fantastic. It's something we're definitely happy to be a part of and to participate in, and it's another sign things are improving for us as a band."

Considering that The Felice Brothers were formerly playing in a New York subway station, they've certainly come a long way. The original group of James, Ian and Simon Felice, along with family friend Greg Farley (washboard/fiddle) and the bassist known only as Christmas, became well known on the East Coast for a demonstrative brand of original numbers and reworked vintage blues, folk, country and old-time numbers.

James' instrumental versatility (accordion, organ and piano), plus the harmonies and interaction with Ian and Simon's fiery drumming, generated plenty of interest among the East Coast folk underground.

Manager Paul Schiavo landed the group a series of dates in England in 2007. The resultant publicity, coupled with critical praise for the self-released CD Through These Reins and Gone helped finally secure a label deal in 2008 with Team Love Records.

Adventures of the Felice Brothers Vol. 1 further propelled the band’s popularity, along with 2008 appearances at such events as Bonnaroo, Newport, Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble and other rock and folk festivals both in America and overseas.

But in addition to their participation on the Big Surprise Tour, it's a new CD Yonder is the Clock, released in April, that's finally getting The Felice Brothers some mainstream recognition.

"This is really the first time that I think we've tried to get into the whole art and process of making a record," James said. "What we've always heard from people who've heard the other things we've done is that we sound so much different in person and we do so many other things that don't necessarily find their way onto the recordings.

"So this time we were very conscious about everything. We wanted to make this as close to the way we sound in person and on stage as possible. We didn't do all that much overdubbing, and we didn't do a lot of takes with the vocals. I think it's really about as close to being a spontaneous record as we can make. We're all very happy with the way it turned out."

There's a host of subjects and topics covered on Yonder is the Clock. The band does murder ballads and weather tunes, numbers about baseball and life on the road, old and new pieces about romantic triumphs and failures. The singing is joyous and energetic, the playing resourceful, engaging, yet tight and disciplined.

Whether they're looking backward ("Penn Station," "Memphis Flu") or toward the future ("Rise and Shine," "Katie Dear"), The Felice Brothers are displaying the kind of rollicking spirit and musical adventurousness on disc that's the cornerstone of their live performances.

James adds that there's one style of music the Brothers enjoy that might surprise even their most avid followers.

"We're all big hip-hop fans," James said. "Especially Jay-Z, but we also like Biggie Smalls. It's something we listen to a lot when we're on the bus. But so far we haven't figured out a way to get that into the live show, but we're thinking about it and working on it."

They've undergone a musical adjustment recently, as Simon has now left the band and started his own group, The Duke and the King, which issued a debut CD Aug. 4.

Besides the various tour dates, The Felice Brothers will be on the road most of this year and well into 2010. They have another European visit scheduled down the line, and James notes that the writing process is always underway.

"The way that we work, we're always writing songs," James said. "It's an ongoing process, because all of us really love different things, and constantly we'll hear something that inspires us and we try to work it into a song. I think our new release will be a lot different from this one, because we really don't even do the songs the same way from night to night."

article here

Nashville Scene: Big Surprise Tour name like The Big Surprise Tour is bound to invite speculation about what unexpected things the acts on the bill have in store. And—just to clarify—the acts on this nine-date package tour are Old Crow Medicine Show, the Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle and the Dave Rawlings Machine (as in, Rawlings as frontman with Gillian Welch supporting).

James Felice—accordion and organ player for the Felice Brothers—places all tour-related curiosity in perspective. One minute he's describing his band's wide-open musical sensibilities; the next he's stumbled onto an absurd idea.

"Who knows what we're going to sound like tomorrow?" Felice says. "We'll get inspired to go in a different direction, then it's all over. We'll all be playing electronic music on keyboards onstage, laptop computers. Maybe that's the big surprise."

He considers this scenario a moment, then goes further: "It's all, like, laptops and Nord keyboards and a DJ booth. I just let the cat out of the bag. That's what's going to happen. And have a small Swedish girl singing bizarre vocals."

He's kidding, of course.

Sure, all these performers reserve the right to expand on and update the rootsy things they do. Old Crow leavened their string band-based sound with a classic rock feel on last year's Tennessee Pusher. In recent years, Rawlings and Welch have spent more time artfully covering Neil Young, Bob Dylan and even Cyndi Lauper, and sitting in with Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley than they have channeling Appalachia in their own indelibly haunting songs.

The Felice Brothers applied more of a punkish attack to parts of their latest album Yonder Is the Clock than they did to its self-titled predecessor. The title track of the country-, ragtime- and blues-reviving Justin Townes Earle's second album, Midnight at the Movies, isn't pitched far from delicate indie ruminations of this decade.

"When I was indulging in Mance Lipscomb and Lightning Hopkins, I would study that stuff," says Earle, no doubt listing LPs he found in his dad, Steve Earle's, collection. "But then when I was sitting around smoking a joint, I would put on The Replacements or Carl Perkins, Billie Holiday or Chet Baker. There's no such thing to me as strict old-timey. I pay very close attention to all kinds of music, because I just don't think that old-timey's the rule."

True enough. But it's also true that the acts have distinguished themselves by drawing some on old-timey basics (if not acoustic instruments, at least live ones that can be played with demonstrable vigor) and by flat-out entertaining.

For some of them—Old Crow and Earle especially—that can take the form of jaunty stage banter. "I mean, 50, 60 years ago, there was a style of performance and a warmth and a connection between the performer and the audience that really does not exist today—and especially amongst singer-songwriters," says Earle. "I don't want to pay $15 to see the record performed live. It's like, give me a fucking break. I like it to be two separate things: Be serious about making the records, but then onstage it's all about just making sure everybody has a good time and they want to buy that ticket again."

The Felice Brothers—who, like Old Crow, developed a knack for showmanship by busking on street corners—burst with unbridled energy live. And Felice shares Earle's convictions about performing: "That's why people will drop a pretty good amount of money for a ticket for a couple hours. They want to be entertained, forget about the crap that's going on in their lives, just have a damn good time. That's our job, to make sure everybody in the audience is having fun."

Laptops aside, the tour—named for the epic lead track on the Felice Brothers' latest and dreamed up by members of Old Crow after the two bands shared a string of dates—has plenty of space built in for the element of surprise. A point of the tour and what makes it an experience—for the musicians and audiences—is that they're not just doing their own sets, but also mixing it up together.

That's a bigger change for Earle than anybody. As the only solo singer and songwriter in the bunch, he's the odd man out. "You know, I did decide to become the boss [of my musical career] and I'm not saying that that was the greatest decision," Earle says. "It's a very difficult situation a lot of times, because when shit goes down, it's nobody else's problem but mine. There's not five other guys that have stock in it and can help fix the problem. It will be really nice to not have it all on my shoulders for a little while."

Exactly what they'll play together is the unknown element. Maybe a little pre-war blues here, a little country-rock there, and some communal originals cooked up just for the occasion—above all, material that lends itself to a big, loose band.

The vibe of the tour is meant to be pretty spontaneous. Everyone convened in Vermont—minus Earle, who was playing a music festival on the West Coast at the time—to brainstorm and jam a little just before they hit the road. "I think it's going to definitely have a lot of energy," says Felice. "That's the one thing we're not worried about."
There was a time, early this decade—before Old Crow had wooed a big new audience to hot acoustic music, before Earle had gotten clean and he and the Felices had started putting out albums, before O Brother had faded in everyone's minds—when Welch's name would've been the first and biggest on the marquee for a tour like this. But as the Big Surprise billing suggests, she cares little about name recognition for its own sake. After all, she and Rawlings—in an egalitarian move—flipped lead and supporting roles in the Dave Rawlings Machine, and she's done a lot of guesting on other people's projects since she released anything under her own name.



The Big Surprise Tour featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Dave Rawlings Machine (w/Gillian Welch), Felice Brothers & Justin Townes Earle
Playing Thursday, 13th at Riverfront Park

But Welch's and Rawlings' importance to the still-growing, indie-friendly scene of musicians with rock 'n' roll-informed, old-timey sensibilities that's showcased on this tour can't be denied. The whole thing—these particular acts tumbled together this particular way—ought to be a good time, and it bodes well for the present and future of the music.

"Some of us have known each other for upwards of about 15 years," Earle says. "It's just really cool that it's finally coming together and we're getting to work with people that think like us. Shit, I'm getting to work with people that I've looked up to for years—those musicians who...forged the way with old-timey music, you know, the Old Crow boys and Dave and Gil."

"It'll be fun," he adds, "because I mean, when I was, like, 14, I used to drink a bottle of Thunderbird wine and go into the Radio Café and see The Esquires. It was Rawlings playing guitar and Gil playing bass and David Steele playing drums. And they did Bob Dylan and Tom Waits covers. It was awesome."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Big Surprise on Cary NC: Poem

T’was one hundred degrees out, and all through the house
Not a creature went outdoors: it’s August in the South;
Yet speakers were hung off the rafters with care,
In hopes that the audience soon would be there;
The bands were nestled all cool in their bus,
While whispers of heat stroke passed between us;

My wife in her sunglasses, and I in my cap,
Had found a good spot, to watch the opening acts,
I was buying some wine, when there arose quite a clatter,
I turned my head to see what was the matter.
Back to our lawn chairs I flew like a flash,
Passed the wine I’d just bought, and let out a gasp.

The rollicking cast of this bluegrass-themed show
Played the opening song, which I did not know.
But, who to my wondering eyes should appear,
But Gillian, David, and twelve tiny reindeer,
Err, no, t’were not reindeer, t’was a different show.
No, these were musicians, some you might know!

More rapid than weasels their guitars they played,
David strummed, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Critter! now, Ketch! now, Morgan and Gillian!
On, Greg ! on Christmas ! on, Ian and Justin!
To the top of the verse! now wait for the call!
Now solo! solo! Solos for all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When one missed a line, they all let it slide.
Through song after song the players they flew,
The dozens of boys (and Gillian too!)
And then, with a winking, most departed,
For the first band’s set had officially started.

Justin Townes Earle was doing his show,
Though soon was re-joined by some from Old Crow.
He was dressed all in white, at least it looked to me -
For from where we were sitting, we couldn’t see his feet.
An acoustic guitar he had flung on his back,
And he sang country songs, old-timey, in fact.

Then the Felice Brothers: their antics, how merry!
Their cheeks were like roses, their noses like cherries!
Carefree and raucous through their songs they careened,
Like Marah and Dylan, the Pouges and Springsteen.
So joyous their playing, we assumed they were drunk;
So young, so irreverent, my wife called them “punks”.

In his grey flannel suit and her simple black dress
The David Rawlings Machine came up to play next.
Songs about sugar, Cortez, and Queen Jane,
Gillian Welch strummed, while David Rawlings sang.
Though it’s not quite the same, to see them this way,
It’s still a good time, and boy can he play!

The Old Crow Medicine Show, they were the last;
They sang of cocaine and moonshine, love and white trash.
They’re a boatload of fun, with their songs about sin;
And they played fast as lightning, and sharp as a pin.
We’d seen them before, but they were better this time;
Or maybe it was the heat – and the beer, and the wine.

And then all the bands, they all went to work,
And filled up the stage; then started with a jerk,
A song from the Willburys: The End Of The Line
Though it was a little rough we all liked it fine.
And then a ‘Mats song, from Pleased To Meet Me.
Justin Earle sang it, it felt a bit sleepy.

Yet then came a song they played with real feel
Old Crow’s Dylan re-work, the great Wagon Wheel
The crowd sprang to their feet, with cheers and with whistles,
And the band played the song, and man did it sizzle.
And then they were done, and up came the lights,
“Thank you to all, and have a safe drive.

Charllottesville VA: The Big Surprise

August 11, 2009
The Big Surprise Tour @ Charlottesville Pavilion
Posted by Sean Moores at August 11, 2009 1:08 PM

The Big Surprise Tour
Charlottesville (Va.) Pavilion
Aug. 9, 2009

The Big Surprise Tour, a caravan composed of Justin Townes Earle, The Felice Brothers, Dave Rawlings Machine and Old Crow Medicine Show, rolled into Charlottesville Pavilion on Sunday night brimming with the promise of delivering a top-notch trip through the gamut of American roots music. Four hours later, the revue had more than lived up to its potential. It’s safe to say that The Big Surprise Tour is one of the best packages of the year. And it’s unlikely that concertgoers are going to find a better bargain, an added bonus in this turbulent economy.

The bang-for-the-bucks aspect of the show was on display from the start. The musicians gathered onstage and opened with the Felice Brothers song from which the tour drew its name, “The Big Surprise.” As the tune’s intensity built, so did the feeling that this would be a night on which great and unexpected things would be possible. (Though given the collection of talent, they might not be all that surprising.)

The stage quickly cleared save for Earle, his multi-instrumentalist sidekick Cory Younts and Old Crow’s Morgan Jahnig (acoustic bass), Ketch Secor (fiddle) and Gill Landry (pedal steel and dobro), who launched into Earle’s “They Killed John Henry,” from his recent release, “Midnight at the Movies.” Musicians came and went as Earle delivered an energetic set heavy on honky-tonk and folksy showmanship. An early highlight of the night featured back-to-back harmonica workouts by Younts on “South Georgia Sugar Babe” and “Halfway to Jackson.”

The camaraderie and collaborative spirit that brought these groups together were on display throughout the night. Younts, Landry and James Felice, who was the reigning keyboardist in tow, appeared frequently onstage, and each of the musicians showed up during sets other than their own. These groups clearly were kindred spirits, and their enthusiasm for performing was infectious.

Next up were the Felice Brothers, who share more with The Band than their Woodstock, N.Y., locale. Much of their material has a timeless quality, walking the line between the old, weird America of Bob Dylan and The Band’s “Basement Tapes” and more current settings and themes. They maintained the energy Earle brought to the proceedings with their rollicking, accordion-driven “Frankie’s Gun!” and the unreleased “White Limousine.”

After a brief intermission, Dave Rawlings Machine, the duo of Gillian Welch and longtime musical partner Rawlings, slowed some of the tempos a bit but gave a performance that was nonetheless intense. As the name implies, the focus is on Rawlings, and the pair relied on covers and Rawlings compositions rather than Welch’s impressive catalog. The set-opening “I Hear Them All,” which was co-written with Old Crow’s Ketch Secor and Willie Watson, segued seamlessly into and out of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land. (“I wrote everything but the really good part in the middle,” Rawlings quipped.) Rawlings and Welch’s voices blended nicely, as always, and Rawlings’ articulate picking and cascading notes from his small archtop gave ample evidence that he is a criminally underrated guitarist. Other highlights from their set included a pairing of Bright Eyes’ “Method Acting” and Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” Jesse Fuller’s (by way of the Grateful Dead) “The Monkey and the Engineer” and a set-closing cover of Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately.”

Old Crow Medicine Show, for all intents and purposes the night’s headliner, followed Rawlings and Welch with a mostly pedal-to-the-metal set that included crowd favorites “Hard to Tell,” “Minglewood Blues” and “Mary’s Kitchen.” The members of OCMS lived up to their name and reputation, playing with the intensity of an old-time revival. This time, they had lots of help.

The entire entourage returned to round out the evening. Earle led the group in his cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” which lent itself to The Big Surprise Tour’s large chorus. The Felice Brothers next moved to the front with “Chicken Wire,” from their latest effort, “Yonder is the Clock.” Welch’s many, many fans in attendance cheered in delight when she and Rawlings kicked off her “Look at Miss Ohio.”

The only real misstep of the night followed, when the assemblage attempted to tackle the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line.” Most of the singers were working from written-down lyrics, and a few stumbled over their lines. The changes from microphone to microphone led to uneven sound and at times no vocals at all. But their hearts were in the right places, and as Otis Wilbury (aka Jeff Lynne) sang on the original recording, “the best we can do is forgive.”

The encore featured two selections from the Old Crow songbook: “Tell it to Me” and “Wagon Wheel,” which has become a modern roots-music standard. The singalong, both onstage and off, spoke volumes about how music brings people together. One can only hope that these groups bring themselves, and us, together for future tours.

The Duke and the King The Basement in Nashville

The Duke and the King @ The Basement, Nashville, Tenn. 8/11/2009
Posted by Caine ORear on August 11th, 2009

The Duke and the King play The Basement, Nashville. Aug. 10, 2009

Before launching into “Union Street” at The Basement Monday night, Simone Felice of the Duke and the King said the song recalled a time when Genesis and Cyndi Lauper ruled his headphones.

The tune, which is off the band’s new album Nothing Gold Can Stay, revisits the singer’s first romance with rock ‘n’ roll –and everything that goes with it. On the streets of Brooklyn, the young Felice craves MTV, pops pills and perhaps gets fresh with a friend’s drug-addicted mom. Ah, sweet bird of youth.

The Duke and the King is the new project of Simone Felice, formerly of the Felice Brothers, and Robert “Chicken” Burke (George Clinton, Sweet Honey in the Rock). The band’s debut album, released Aug. 4 on Ramseur Records, has garnered critical reviews here and abroad.

Themes of loss and transience permeate the record. (In an open letter to fans, Felice said the songs were inspired by the loss of his baby girl, penned during the winter of his discontent, in the wilds of upstate New York). But where the Felice Brothers recall a dusty jug band from the old, weird America, the Duke and the King are mellow and introspective, moving to the R&B grooves of the man they call “Chicken.”

Live, the band amps it up a notch. Monday’s show featured the drumming of Nowell “The Deacon” Haskins, an ex-preacher from New Jersey with a heap of Northern soul, and a Wu-Tang shirt to boot. Electric violin rounded out the lineup.

On stage, the Duke and the King exude an easy, loose vibe that lightens the often dark subject matter. All told, it’s a show not to be missed.–Caine O’Rear

Monday, August 10, 2009

Big Surprise: Philly

The Delaware Online

With a show stacked with American roots acts — Old Crow Medicine Show, the Dave Rawlings Machine featuring Gillian Welch, The Felice Brothers and Justin Townes Earle — a guided tour of country, blues and old time music was expected at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia Friday night.

So after nearly four hours of music and with all four acts on the stage for a show-stopping encore, you might expect a sing-a-long to Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” or maybe Neil Young’s “Helpless,” no?

Instead, the familiar driving beat of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” filled the converted warehouse for a ramshackle tribute to the King of Pop — a tribute that included Gilliam Welch singing a verse, along with the elder statesman tour, her longtime collaborator, Rawlings.

It was a fitting end to a marathon night of music, dubbed “The Big Surprise Tour,” that celebrated all types of American music with Earle, son of Americana hero Steve Earle, opening the night with a set of retro honky tonk tunes, winning over the crowd with his “Revenge of the Nerds” look, complete with too-short white pants and matching white shoes.

Earle sounded like a country star from the ’50s as he sang the songs from his first two albums — nothing like the current roster of pop products that reside on the top of the country charts. The lanky Earle made the most out of his 30-minute set, which included visits from a rotating cast of musicians from the tour, something that happened throughout the night.

Earle’s pleasant opening led us to a high-powered triple threat, starting with The Felice Brothers and their raucous set of controlled chaos with band members crashing into one another, letting the stage show sometimes overshadow their music.

Just like with the Michael Jackson song, the Felices are not what you might expect. Sure, they are an emerging Americana act, but their fiddle/washboard player, Greg Farley, was found on this night wearing a sideways New York Yankees hat and a plain white t-shirt as he acted as the band’s hype man in between songs. As he leaned over the lip of the stage rapping about how the crowd should “shake it,” Farley looked more like a member of 50 Cent’s crew, minus the fiddle and washboard, of course.

Still, the band is grounded by the otherworldly voice of lead singer Ian Felice, whose lyrics and tone hearken back to the The Band’s time at Big Pink, near where the Felice Brothers are also from. Not only did the singer — think of a more gravelly Paul Westerberg on “Stereo” — score on songs like “Frankie’s Gun” and “Penn Station,” his childlike circular runs while playing guitar were especially endearing considering the band’s groggy bassist, Christmas, seemed a bit lost as a whirlwind of activity surrounded him.

After a 20 minute intermission, out came the Dave Rawlings Machine with Welch taking an unusual backseat to her longtime guitarist/producer Rawlings.

Rawlings leaned mostly on songs he co-wrote for others and cover songs for his 50-minute set, including some real gems. “I Hear Them All,” which appears on Old Crowd Medicine Show’s “Big Iron,” included. Towards the end, the song melted into Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” one of several nods to the tour’s musical forefathers, which also included a Rawlings/Welch collaboration on Young’s “Cortez the Killer.”

Rawlings’ slowed take on “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High),” which he co-wrote with Ryan Adams for Adams’ 2000 solo debut, “Heartbreaker,” was a great surprise, especially with Welch’s singing in the background.

But it was their expansive version of Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately” with Benmont Tench, a founding member of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, on organ that made for the night’s best musical moment. The combination Tench’s organ solo with Rawlings’ unique guitar work brought the song closer to a transcendent Grateful Dead version of the song than the version Dylan sings these days. (Tench sat in with all acts throughout the night, which was a welcomed surprise.)

By the time Old Crow Medicine Show came on stage, the crowd was already more than 2-1/2 hours into the concert. But the fan base for the old time string band is as dedicated as they come, dancing early to “Humdinger,” with Felice’s Farley sitting in on fiddle, and “Alabama High-Test.”

“This little number is straight out of Delaware — straight out of the gritty streets of Wilmington,” joked OCMS singer/fiddle player Ketch Secor before the traditional “Poor Man,” a song that ushered in a taste of Depression-era music from the band, including “C.C. Rider,” bringing the ghost of blues/folk Leadbelly into the mix.

Soon, the stage was full with 15 musicians as the four acts came together to close out the night. After the Jackson tribute, Earle took the lead on The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” and Welch finally came to the front and sang “Look at Miss Ohio,” one of her own songs.

But as expected, the musical revue did come down to a Dylan sing-a-long.

Well, sort of.

OCMS dug out their greatest hit, “Wagon Wheel,” which includes long-discarded lyrics from Dylan. With Rawlings and Welch, early mentors of OCMS, mingling with the newest generation of their inherited musical movement, they sang with one voice, taking the crowd through one last journey through the past: “Rock me mama like the wind and the rain/Rock me mama like a southbound train/
Hey, mama rock me.”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Owl and the Bear: Poetic Memory with Simone Felice

The Duke & the King, a new Huckleberry Finn-inspired project led by Simone Felice of the Felice Brothers, can be best described as loping, sun-faded melodic pop with touches of country, gospel, and folk. Their forthcoming album, Nothing Gold Can Stay, was recorded over a cold winter in the Catskill Mountains. The Duke & the King, while sonically different from the Felice Brothers, should be an interesting listen. Nothing Gold Can Stay is out August 4 and a tour is in the works, but no dates have been announced. Below is Simone Felice’s Poetic Memory.

MP3: “The Morning I Get to Hell,” the first single from Nothing Gold Can Stay
MP3: “Frankie’s Gun,” by the Felice Brothers

Poetic Memory is a regular Owl and Bear feature in which musicians disclose their influences—whether it’s albums, songs, artists, or something random. If you’re interested in being featured here, send us an email.

Joni Mitchell - Blue: Songs are like tattoos. My mother played this album when I was a small boy. It is the saddest, most beautiful honesty, like an angel caught in a strip-club.

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks: The poetry and the mood are untouchable; he made this in two days in New York City. They don’t make them like this no more.

Sam Cooke’s song ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’: I was born by the river in a little tent, and just like the river I’ve been running ever since.

Nelson Algren’s novel The Man With the Golden Arm: Chicago after WW2, a junky with a heart, a beat-up girl, don’t wanna give away the rest. Division street, where angels bruise and lose their routes to heaven.

My lilac tree: These small white flowers take me back to my first memories on earth, when people still smoked in hospitals, when life was

Birmingham Box Set: Carla Jean Whitley interviews Simone Felice

The Duke and The King

The Duke and the King. Photo: Dave Herron.

Simone Felice answers the phone laughing. It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday and he’s on the road, in a van filled with band members. “We’re getting out of New York City, which is a good feeling, and heading down South, which is an even better feeling,” he says.

Felice is en route to Chapel Hill, N.C., on tour with The Duke and the King. It’s a new project for Felice, who has already established a reputation for his songwriting and musicality in the Felice Brothers. The Duke and The King’s debut album, Nothing Gold Can Stay, was released Aug. 4 and is the featured CD in this month’s Birmingham magazine.

Felice (the Duke in this Huckleberry Finn allusion) and Robert “Chicken” Burke (the King) will play the Bottletree Café on Saturday, joined by Nowell Haskins (the Deacon) and Simi (The Dame).

Birmingham Box Set: How did this project come to be?

Simone Felice: It was a real sort of natural thing how it all came together. Me and Robert were recording some songs. At that time, in the winter, my long-time girl and I lost our baby in a late miscarriage. It was really sad. It made me rethink everything I’m doing in life and I got inspired to write these new songs. There’s a lot of new songs that are inspired from the healing of that tragedy.

It just came out that we sort of naturally made this record without even thinking about it. My brothers and I are totally supportive of each other, and they came out to the first night of the tour of The Duke and The King and did some songs with us.

We’re rolling down the river and our paths will converge. It’s just a part of that big river of life.

BBS: You know, this album really encompasses those emotions. There are moments of sadness, but hope shines through.

SF: Very great observation. That’s what we hoped it would feel like, a balance of sorrow and joy, which is what life is all about.

It’s universal. Sorrow is universal. Everyone knows that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I think in our life, music has been one of those things that helps us to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Music, lyrics, harmony. Music is a healer, and we would hope that music would be the same thing for people, a healing force for the world.

BBS: Correct me if I’m wrong here—it’s your album, after all. But in listening to Nothing Gold Can Stay, I seem to hear a lot of the sounds of the late ’60s and the ’70s. What were your influences?

SF: We grew up listening to that music. It was all around. The Beatles records, the Stevie Wonder records, the Neil Youngs, the Parliament Funkadelic records and the Joni Mitchell records. That’s what influenced our understanding of music. … We’re lucky enough to live in a time where we can hear that music and be inspired.

BBS: Inevitably, there are comparisons to the Felice Brothers. You’ve stepped to the front on The Duke and the King. What’s that been like for you?

SF: Both roles are an honor for me to be a part of, and have been an honor for me to be part of. With this album, I got to really try my own stuff and the story of my man Robert and me in the winter and sort of dealing with heartache and love and all that comes along with life. It’s a really nice vehicle to be able to tell a more personal story, which I hope would hope to be a universal story too. A lot of work on this new album is autobiographical. It’s a nice change, you know.

We’re working on having a harmony band [with the addition of Nowell Haskins and their friend Simi, both of whom will be at the Birmingham show]. We want to be a vocal band, which to me is my favorite kind of band. … A lot of vocals, trading back and forth and all singing together. It’s my favorite kind of music. With this band I get to explore that in another way.

BBS: What’s ahead for The Duke and the King?

SF: We’re doing a ramble with Levon Helm … which is a big honor. You know Levon Helm from The Band. He has a special show at his house, in his barn, and we got asked to do one in November.

The Duke and the King will continue to tour in the United States, Europe and Australia, but you can catch them Saturday night at Bottletree Café. Tickets are $10 and available by calling 533-6288 or online at Duquette Johnston will open the show, and doors are set to open at 8 p.m.

You’ll also hear Felice’s drumming on “I and Love and You,” the title track on the upcoming album from the Avett Brothers. This winter, he’ll return to the studio with The Duke and the King to record the band’s second album.

The Duke and the King at the Local 506 Chapel Hill North Carolina

the duke & the king @ local 506, originally uploaded by minervacat.

Simone Felice asked me last night if shep. and I worked for Rolling Stone. No, baby, I don’t, but if you know somebody I’ll take an intro.

He was polite, funny, and charming; he played everything off the new album I wanted to hear plus “Radio Song” and “Don’t Wake The Scarecrow”; he hugged us good-bye. And that set — that might have been the best set I’ll see all year. Holy fucking shit, that was amazing.

Frankies Gun from Beacon Theater

From Sean at

Friday, August 7, 2009

a little gift from Woodstock Big Surprise review from The Beacon Theater

This show was being billed basically as an Old Crow Medicine Show show. But wow it was just so much more, way much more. And yah it lived up to the real title for the event. It was The Big Surprise. Actually the biggest surprise came from the newly renovated Beacon Theatre security. THEY WERE ALL OVER. This classic New York City concert venue used to be so chill... but no more. People were getting hasselled by the man all over. Even for dancing in the aisle during the encore. Beacon you now so totally suck!

Anyways Ephman was only able to scam one really good video. And actually it's with everybody pretty much from the show on stange. So enjoy it might just be a rare one.

If you don't know who Justin Townes Earle is, his lastname should be a hint. His dad is Steve. But Justin is in a world of his own. He came out and started singing songs off his new album Midnight At The Movies. He just sort of reminds Ephman of one of those 1930's Grand Ole Opry singers. He looks so awkward standing there with his body slanted to the audience, but that's the charm. You really must get a chance to see him live one day. Great stuff, and totally not living in his dad's shawdow.

Local NYC boys The Felice Brothers hit the stage next. Oh it should be mentioned that this concert was more like a review type of show. With bands all intermixing and everything. It was like a country orgy. In any event they cats came dressed in NY Yankee shirts and hats. And came ready to "rock out". They moved all over the place. The Felice Brothers in a weird way can be kind of summed up as the Beastie Boys, meet The Band, meet Bob Dylan, meet cajun. They really do jam well, and were super tight. Totally awesome to have the washboard pulled out and smashed against the cymbals. Nice.

Ephman's personal fav of the evening was Dave Rawlings Machine with Gillian Welch. That combo was just so angelic for the evening. He's never seen either play. And was so totally blown away by both Dave's guitar picking, his voice, and the selection of songs they played. Let's just say it was so special that Bob Dylan's Queen Jane Approximately not only stole the show, but could be one of the best covers Ephman has ever seen performed live. That's a big thing. Ephman's been to hundreds and hundreds of concerts. The crowd responded by simultaneously jumping up for a standing ovation. Oh can't forget the only women on the stage for the night. Gillian, you have the sweetest voice. Enough said on that, you just needed to be there.

Finally the bid draw of the evening Old Crow Medicine Show. They hit that stage already warmed up from playing with all the other acts during the evening and they were on fire. They have to one of the hottest bluegrass bands around today. Ephman has seen some really amazing bluegrass. Remember Del McCoury Band playing an all accoustic show at Carnegie Hall WITHOUT AMPLIFICATION!!! But Old Crow Medicine Show is a different beast. From the double banjo, to the crazy mouth organ playing, these guys must be totally exhausted now. This band runs all around the stage. Super energetic. The only downside to their set was the crowd. Shame on you crowd. They have a great sound to get up and dance to. The crowd was on their butts for most of the set (from where Ephman was sitting). If you're not familiar with this band, and Ephman expects the vast majority of you don't. See them. They are way better live then on disc.