Wednesday, December 16, 2009 recognize The Felice Brothers and the Duke and the King

photo by "Jumpin bean fever" on Flickr

Dave Hodge's Top 20 of 2009
1. Avett Brothers, I and Love and You
2. Wilco, Wilco (The Album)
3. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
4. Joel Plaskett, Three
5. Metric, Fantasies
6. Frank Turner, Poetry of the Deed
7. Felice Brothers, Yonder Is the Clock
8. Thermals, Now We Can See
9. Phosphorescent, To Willie
10. Tragically Hip, We Are The Same
11. Wild Light, Adult Nights
12. Deer Tick, Born on a Flag Day
13. Dog Day, Concentration
14. Tripwires, House to House
15. Lucreo, 1372 Overton Park
16. Magnolia Electric Co., Josephine
17. Roman Candle, Oh Tall Tree in the Ear
18. Cass McCombs, Catacombs
19. The Duke and the King, Nothing Gold Can Stay
20. Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle, Let's Just Stay Here

Duke and the King interview in Q

photo from laurenkemery's flickr page
Q: Duke & The King Interview
9th December, 2009

in The Duke & The King

Q discusses the power of music and one of 2009’s under the radar gems with it’s creators

Imagine, if you will, a cross between Marvin Gaye and James Taylor; Smokey Robinson and Paul Simon; Sly and the Family Stone and Neil Young. Okay, got it? You’re halfway towards getting a feel towards the gorgeous and painful, yet warm, country-soul sound of The Duke & The King. They’ve released one of the year’s best albums with their debut Nothing Gold Can Stay (recorded in a cabin in the Catskill Mountains of New York State) and are utterly devastating live.

Named after the travelling Shakespeare hustlers in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Duke & The King are made up of Simone (pronounced Simon) Felice (The Duke), former drummer and writer for the equally wonderful The Felice Brothers, George Clinton collaborator Robert ‘Chicken’ Burke (The King), Nowell Haskins (The Deacon) and Simi Stone. Qthemusic had a chat with the band before they took to the stage at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge and left a beer-soaked, rowdy crowd in a hushed awe.

How did you and Robert get together? And what inspired you to record as The Duke & The King?
Robert: Love and friendship.

Simone: It’s the same thing that brought us all together. Nowell is on the record that we made. He’s a featured singer on Lose Myself. And Simi is our most recent chosen one.

How did you enjoy playing on Jools Holland recently?
Simone: My friend said we looked like an Oreo version of The Mamas and the Papas.

Being a drummer with The Felice Brothers was there a desire to be centre stage or is that just a by-product of the fact that you had these songs to sing?
Simone: No, I love playing the drums and even in The Duke & The King I still get to play a couple of songs that Bobbie gets the lead on. We swap up. Nowell grabs the bass sometimes or hits the drum kit. We started out us three guys; it was a trio first. And we’re three singing drummers. I’m proud to be a singing drummer and I hope I always will be one.

Being singing drummers how was it playing a show with Levon Helm, the legendary drummer for The Band?
Simone: It was a milestone for us. We’d done about 100 shows before that, but the one at Levon’s we’d been working hard in my barn on getting all of our band really united and feeling really glued up together with our songs and our harmonies. We really considered Levon’s show to be the launching pad for what this band can be live. Levon fell in love with our band and we got a standing ovation at the show and he called us up at the end to sing The Weight with him. And we sang with our hero, one of our biggest heroes ever. One of the most magical moments of my life.

The name The Duke & The King comes from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the new Felice Brothers record ‘Yonder is the Clock’ comes from a more obscure Twain book, Mysterious Stranger. What is the deal with the southern thing for guys born in the New York area?
Simone: It’s the devil saying, ‘that guy’s going to die at this hour, that guy is going to die at that hour, she’s going to die at this hour’. Yonder is the clock. It’s Northern Gothic. The inspiration for The Duke & The King is that in the book there are these two drifters setting up the Shakespeare camp that was going up and down the river. And it’s that tradition of being on the river, or on the road, getting up on stage and putting on a show. And we like to bring theatre into our music. We want it to be like a travelling theatre. In the future Nowell said he would like two horn players on either side of the stage to introduce the band.

Your album Nothing Gold Can Stay seems to be about recognising your own mortality and a yearning for the innocence of childhood, yet it doesn’t sound like a sad album. It actually sounds very warm. Was that a conscious decision or did it happen naturally?
Simone: Like a glass of wine. That’s what we wanted. I think as writers and singers all of us have looked darkness in the eye. You can be rest assured. And sometimes when you have to look down that dark tunnel it forces you to create an inner warmth. D’ya know what I mean? It’s cold down there. If you face death or you face sadness, or the abyss, you have to create an inner fire.

That same warmth comes through from the letter you wrote to fans about why you had left The Felice Brothers and all the tragic personal events that had happened to you [Felice and his partner lost their first baby while he was making The Duke & The King record]. Are you generally a positive person?
Simone: Do you want to answer that Bobbie, am I a positive guy?

Robert: I don’t like to make a comment about that. But when you go through a hard time in your life and you acknowledge it, and by coming to grips with that there is a feeling of freedom. So if you learn how to go through that door and take the positivity of experience it makes you feel good to go through something bad once you understand you’re going through it, and past it. I think that’s what positive people do and why they’re not as prone to depression. When I feel more negative I’ve gone through depression in my life. So is Simone a positive person? Yes. He tries as hard as possible. But man we could be cynical as hell.

Nowell: The reality of life, life’s rhyme or reason, is that there is happy and sad. The reality of being a human being is that you have good, you have bad, you have happy, you have sad.

Simone: The world would fall apart if it didn’t have balance; the darkness and the light. We’re trying to spread as much love as we can. We want music to be a healing force for people.

Do you believe in the redemptive power of music then? Like you sing in Union Street: “As long as we’ve got rock ‘n’ roll, everything will be alright.” Do you believe that?
Simone: Well music has been for all of us…

Nowell: It’s a medicine, man.

Simone: It’s the biggest medicine.

Robert: Once again you’ve got to look at the light. I mean because Gary Glitter had rock ‘n’ roll, too.

Simi: It’s about finding beauty in darkness, and in pain, and in the abyss.

Simone: Life is hard. For so many people it’s a suffering thing. And if a glass of wine or a laugh with a friend, or falling in love, or making a baby, or walking up a beautiful hill with the sun shining on you, if you have those moments you can cherish them, and it helps you get through all the rest of the fucking rough. But music, songs, poetry, it’s saved all of our lives.

The record has a timeless quality without sounding old. Is it hard to write something without slipping into sentimentality?
Simone: It took my whole life to learn how to write like that. And it’s not easy, it’s hard, but that’s how you learn how to write. Trying to get a tradition of telling the tale of our time. You get a lot of people that take the past and just regurgitate it. Taking some old tradition and thinking I’m going to dress up like this guy used to, and sing about the same old shit. But that’s weird. The poet’s job is to tell the story of his own time.

Robert: But obviously you can’t ignore the fact of the past few decades we’ve been through as well because that has affected and inspired all of us. The classic albums and musicians of the past.

Are you aware of what the music critic Greil Marcus described as the “old, weird America”?
Simone: I think America is twisted, and it’s been twisted since we picked up the slaves on the ships, and twisted since we gave the smallpox blankets to the Indians. If you keep the channel open in your heart and mind then you can really listen to all the screaming ghosts that exist in the country called America. If you listen to it all it will drive you crazy. So you have to know when to turn it off.

There are so many singers who write contrived, trite love songs that sell millions, and lesser known artists, like yourselves, exist on the margins. What would you do if you ever got famous?
Robert: It would be like Phil Collins from that point on.

Simone: We’d have to remember where we came from. That’s what the song is about. It’s a mantra to ourselves, to remember the people who have always loved us, and remember each other. And to not get caught up in all the illusions and bullshit of fame. The disease of fame, which is a disease that England and America both have. Programmes about dancing with the stars or American Idol are completely false.

Duke and the King gets album of Year nod in Telegraph

Duke and the King's Nothing Gold Can Stay at #1 and The Felice Brothers Yonder is the Clock at #4

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Duke & The King, Manchester

A royal performance: The Duke & The King, Manchester Ruby Loungeby Ed Devlin. Published Thu 26 Nov 2009 20:00
The Duke & The King

video by ChucksmithNYC again!

Duke & The King, Manchester Ruby Lounge, November 21, 2009

“We’re all in Manchester, and we’re all united,” says Simone Felice in an attempt to convey a sense of bonhomie between the band and their audience.

As an American he can be forgiven for not showing the correct football etiquette as half the room boo his genuine, if corny, attempt at spreading the love.

Thankfully The Duke & The King’s set provokes a more positive reaction, with everyone in attendance in the palm of their hands from the opening chords of ‘If You Ever Get Famous’ – also the first song of their haunting, and beautiful, debut album ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay.’

It’s followed quickly by new single ‘The Morning I Get To Hell’, and it’s clear that as good as the album is, The Duke & The King live is an altogether more enthralling experience; spiritual even.

A wonderful mix of soul, country and West Coast folk, Smokey Robinson dueting with James Taylor, Sly & the Family Stone teaming up with Simon & Garfunkel. Whatever it is, it’s special, it’s liquid music.

The band performs as a quartet live, and all four members have sensational voices with a sensational variety. They swap instruments giving the night a very intimate feeling, as if any member of the crowd could get up there and join in at any time.

Felice (The Duke) takes lead duties on most songs and has a raw sadness about him, as well as a warmth that he shares with everyone in the venue. This is evident on ‘Don’t Wake The Scarecrow’, from The Felice Brothers’ second album, a beautiful number that is lyrically stunning. And on ‘Union Street’, a song that wistfully reflects on getting back to a more innocent time, and one of the night’s many highlights, there is a collective lump in the audience’s throat. “As long as we’ve got rock and roll, everything will be alright,” sings Felice. Amen, brother.

Robert ‘Chicken’ Burke (The King) showcases his sweeter, sun-kissed vocals on ‘Suzanne’, as well as a versatility throughout the night, as he jumps from guitar to bass to drums with ease.

But it is the big man wearing the Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt that surprises the most. Nowell Haskins (The Deacon) plays the drums and supplies soft backing vocals until ‘Lose My Self’ when a volcanic eruption seems to happen. As he opens his mouth a voice like molten lava comes flowing from his incredible pipes. This understatement sums up The Duke & The King; when they are able to use a singer of this talent so sparingly, and brilliantly, it is evident that we’re in the presence of something very special.

Simi Stone, the fourth member, is as important to the whole as the three main players, her violin playing more than a little reminiscent of Scarlet Rivera on Bob Dylan’s Desire.

All this comes together, and reaches a climax, for a breathtaking rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’. After intense, and pleading, screams from the audience the band appears for a moving encore of ‘One More American Song’, the final track on their album.

If tonight is just an intimate, quiet gig it’s frightening to think what this band would sound like in full flow. Lyrically as good as anything released in the last few years, and musically joyous and full of pathos at the same time. Long live The Duke & The King.

New single ‘The Morning I Get To Hell’ released 14th December

Nothing Gold Can Stay Named Album of the Year
Photo by elchicodeleche

by Simon at Beat-Surrender

Much procrastinating going on recently trying to settle on my choices for a Top 20 of 2009, in truth there was little between many of my choices and when I look what I left out it reinforces what a wonderful year it's being for Americana and Alt-country flavoured music, through all this one album has stood out from the pack and this was the one.

There was a buzz around about this album prior to it’s release and indeed the taster track that was set free If You Ever Get Famous caught my attention immediately, this was an album I had to get my hands on as soon as – and my faith was rewarded because this set of songs went straight to the top of my 2009 albums and nothing released since has had what it takes to change my mind about what would be my top album of the year - and if you twisted my arm for a top ten albums of the decade I'd be hard pressed not to include this one.

The tragic backdrop story to the album is well documented and I won’t dwell on it, but a sadness does permeate this album but there are moments of hope here, glimpses of salvation – it’s not all loss, lies, despair and pining for the past. The writing is top notch and if you don't already know Simone Felice is a published author, one of his book's Goodbye Amelia will hopefully arrive with me Christmas morning.

It’s not just the writing and literary references that make this album stand out, the other elements hold up under scrutiny too, Simone Felice’s lead vocal fits hand in glove with the songs, the combination of 70’s folk hero and blue eyed-soul that wraps itself around the lyrics and then there is the wonderful harmonies and support vocals provided by Robert Burke, the Rev Loveday (Nowell Haskins) and Simi Stine. The sympathetic production allows the songs to breathe, to sink into the consciousness - it's an album which demands your attention and rewards it richly in return.

I’ve heard the band being described as many different things but if your after labelling it then the umbrella genre of Americana would surely fit the best - after all two icons of American culture are prominent, the title Nothing Gold Can Stay pays homage to Robert Frost and the band take their name from Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

No favourite’s on this record the whole albums a work of art, if you need convincing to buy this album then I hope some of the tracks below will help you make up your mind, you can purchase the CD from Loose Records , if you prefer vinyl you can get your hands on an audiophile 180g LP from the guys at Diverse (check our their charity calendar of album covers here) and finally there’s also a lovely Double-7” Inch Gatefold Single of If You Ever Get Famous available from Loose Records, this is backed up by two tracks from the album, Union Street and Still Remember Love as well as an exclusive track One More Year.

One regret this year on the music front was not going to the see the band live, so this breaking news from Teek on Americana UK forum is welcome news.

"Simone said they will be recording a live album over two nights in February at Levon Helm's studio. Don't know specific dates but he said they'll be doing the Felice Brothers tunes from their set (Scarecrow, Belly, Radio Song, Devil), a few songs from Nothing Gold Can Stay, maybe one or two new ones and some covers" Dan Deluca's five best shows of 2009

Dan DeLuca's Best Five Shows of 2009
By Dan DeLuca

Inquirer Music Critic

1. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Oct. 20, the Spectrum. The sixth and last of Springsteen's '09 Spectrum shows was the best. Trust me, I saw them all. The Boss' last night in town stood out, from the ultra-rare "The Price You Pay" opener to the "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "Higher and Higher" encores. The Darkness on the Edge of Town performance the previous week was the one I was stoked for, but that show was topped with ease by the Born in the U.S.A. night, when Springsteen reminded fans that his 1984 blockbuster can stand with his best work, and rose to the occasion with a 31/2-hour sweatathon that matched the momentous occasion.
2. Leonard Cohen, May 12, The Academy of Music. It was a good year for old men. I caught the 74-year-old Cohen twice this year - once at the Beacon Theater in New York, and again at the Academy. Though the shows were identical, they were also identically remarkable: elegant three-hour evenings in the company of a genteel song-poet and philosopher of love and death who nimbly skipped on and off the stage and fronted a knockout band whose musicianship was matched by its sartorial splendor. Watch the Live in London DVD.

3. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, May 29, World Cafe Live. Black Joe Lewis, the 27-year-old soul shouter and guitarist from Austin, Texas, who fronts the hard-driving, horn-heavy Honey Bears, played on a remarkable Friday night during the Non-COMM radio convention at which the Avett Brothers, Rhett Miller, and Tre Williams and the Revelations also played. Lewis' Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! album is good and gritty, but only hints at the garage-soul mayhem the group unleashes on stage.

4. Pearl Jam, Oct. 30, the Spectrum. I almost got crushed to death on the concourse on the next-to-last night at the Spectrum. So maybe it was that happy-to-be-alive euphoria that animated Pearl Jam's penultimate show at the South Philadelphia arena. More likely, the Seattle band didn't have the burden to carry that it did the next night, and was free to cut loose. The raucous reception was unmatched by any during the Spectrum's final year of shows, particularly as the grunge survivors fired away with "Jeremy," "Alive," and The Who's "Baba O'Riley." "We've played a lot of shows here," Eddie Vedder said. "And this is the crowd we've been waiting for."

5. The Duke & the King, Aug. 3, First Unitarian Church Chapel. If this were the 2008 list, I would have included seeing the Felice Brothers in Frank Furness' tiny chapel, which is the smallest of the three venues at the always all-ages church. That was a killer show from the Upstate New York family band. This year, Felice brother Simone made a singer-songwriter move with one of the year's sleeper albums, The Duke & the King's Nothing Gold Can Stay. During his August show, Felice and his bandmates raised a gospel ruckus, and brought his tender and intelligent tunes down to a hushed whisper in the coolest room in town.

Drew's House Part 2 December 12

SETLIST (91:57)
01. Introduction
02. If You Ever Get Famous
03. The Morning I Get To Hell
04. Don't Wake The Scarecrow
05. Suzanne
06. In This Place We Call Our Home
07. Union Street
08. Summer Morning Rain
09. The Devil Is Real
10. Water Spider
11. I've Been Bad
12. Radio Song
13. Helpless¹
14. All When We Were Young
15. Mercy
16. Something In The Way² (Nirvana)
17. One More American Song

Thanks to Billy Brock for this info.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Felice Brothers Tour Dates

December 2009
Thursday 31 | Southpaw-SOLD OUT, Brooklyn, NY - more info
January 2010
Thursday 28 | Mexicali Live, Teaneck, NJ - more info
Friday 29 | YMCA Boulton Center, Bay Shore, NY - more info
Saturday 30 | Capitol Theatre, York, PA - more info

this on the heels of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette naming Yonder is the Clock as one of the Ten must hear albums of 2009

and you all know i love the "Stillwater" photo i posted from the mixtape (with Ian as Russell Hammond) every time i see this photo, i expect Jason Lee as Jeff Bebe to explode.

maybe my alltime favorite picture of the band.

The Duke and the King Christmas Show at the Colony Cafe

You can buy tickets for this wonderful opportunity right HERE

see you there!!

The Duke and the King at the Bowery Ballroom Dec 9

The Greenshoelace Flickr Page

Notes from Sean at;

Willy had a nice opening set of 10 to 12 songs, and knows how to hold the audience's attention while alone on stage. Nice mellow set that included some chatting with the audience. It was a pretty nice crowd, no problems I could see the whole night.

Once Willy finished up we got to see The Duke and the King do what they do best. Play from the heart and make everything just feel so natural. There was a small bit of technical difficulties when starting the first song. Simone's guitar was plugged in but it didn't seem to be working. They switched it up and the show quickly got under way. I'll have some videos up of this set, as well as a ton of photos soon. Pretty normal setlist that they've been known to play. I was sad because they didn't play "This Place We Call a Home" but we did get a bunch of the classics. Songs included were Union Street, Don't Wake the Scarecrow, The Devil is Real, If you Ever Get Famous, Morning that I get to Hell, Helpless, One More American Song among others. They played Suzanne which I was glad to see.......I love it when Chicken steps up to the mic to take over. The band looked very happy on stage and seemed to be having an amazing time.

Finally, the headlining act came out.....AA Bondy, Macey Taylor (bass) and Ben Lester (drums, slide guitar) took to the stage. I was told by the security not to take any more videos but I snuck a few in that will get uploaded to Youtube. Bondy was amazing in his ability to go from heavy feedback-filled swampy jamming to soft, melodic finger picking. His between-song banter was hilarious as always. Before the song "Oh The Vampire" Bondy began saying "Fuck Twilight.....that stuff is bullshit. I wrote this song before all that Twilight, True Blood bullshit. Here's a song called Oh the Frankenstein". We also got to hear him talk about how he has a funny job and that he's glad for it. One of my favorite talking points was "Fuck Scrappy Do. I never like Scrappy Do, Scooby was way better. Sometimes when I'm watching it i'll say Oh sweet Scooby Do is on.....then I can tell by the animation that he'll be there and then I see Scrappy and say ahhh shit." He also mentioned liking Scooby's cousin Scooby Don't.

Stage banter aside....the show was awesome. Bondy performed the hell out of tunes from both of his albums, as well as beautiful covers of My Funny Valentine and I'm So Lonesome I could Cry where Bondy was on stage alone for some intimate music that was dedicated to different people. I'll update this thread when I get photos and videos up on the site and youtube. Just an awesome night all around.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Unitarian Church Philly December 8

"I want to be with you."
"You can't"
"You can't. You have to carry the fire"
"I don't know how to"
"Yes you do"
"Is it real? The Fire?"
"yes it is"
"Where is it? I don't know where it is"
"Yes you do. It's inside you. It was always there. I can see it"

-Final conversation between the father and young son in "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

The crowd at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia were likely not unfamiliar to the members of the Duke and the King. Most have
been following singer Simone Felice since he and his critically acclaimed brothers started barnstorming the United States and Europe in 2006. The bond that
Felice formed with those fans was a very strong one, and those bonds have carried over to his new project "the Duke and the King" featuring most notably Robert "Chicken" Burke, as well as
Nowell "the Deacon" Haskins and Simi "the Duchess" Stone. The show wasn't really a group of performers playing their songs for their adoring fans, but rather resembled, more accurately, a family,
a gathering of people related, not by blood, but by purpose, a shared vision of love. This was as much a group hug, as a musical performance. Felice, who is preacher/shaman, of this church of poetry,
love and music, has always understood the true meaning of "concert", a mutual action. One moment that struck me Tuesday night, was when i noticed a female fan, standing at attention
during the songs, moving her lips with each syllable "One More American Song", as she had done with virtually every song all evening, and thinking this isn't mere adoration of her mostly male pop stars.
She was all in. emotionally and spiritually. This was church. She is carrying the fire too.

The show was phenomenal. Quite simply they are the very best live act in this folk/Americana genre. The harmonies were off the hook, and honestly, when they utilize their full arsenal, with Simi and Nowell adding so much, they have no comparison with any current act I can think of. The one thing that sets them apart more than anything, is how they utilize Nowell to accentuate the keys moments in songs. What other folky band can have a guy do that? It's really unique, it's their hook.

Simone was wonderful as always, and put out the best ever version of Union St, in which he stopped at the bridge and just started having a conversation with the audience, about the turmoil that lives around us, or within us. Really cool, but it just built up the tension in the room as he broke into the verse that really hits home, and makes this song not just a fantasy, but a real contemplation of our past and a reason to look forward;
"you were the prettiest girl in town,
But your Ma was a druggie and kicked you around,
Everyone knew the word on the street
Knew she was easy
So easy
Your Ma was easy
So meet me there in the parking lot
And bring those pills you stole from your mom
And we'll be gone
Long gone"

Truly stunning.

Other highlights were the new classic "this place" sung by Nowell and performed full band.
He left the small crowd with their jaws on the floor. Nowell also accentuated "Helpless" with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" in the middle


-If You Ever Get Famous
-Morning I Get To Hell
-Don't wake The Scarecrow (verses sung by Simone, Nowell, and Simi)
-Suzanne (Bobby Bird vocal with interplay with Simi's violin)
-This Place (Nowell), full band arrangement
-Union St/Amazing Grace (Simone and Nowell lead vocals, with Simone mid song rap session about our troubled world and the shelter this music and that church provides us.)
-Waterspider(full band) best ever version I have heard in person, it kinda rocked comparitively to the
Solo acoustic version on record
-Ive Been Bad(Bobby Bird lead vocal)
-Devil is Real
-you're Belly in my Arms(showstopper, I thought I saw a tear roll down someone's face when he sang "I said that cloud is shaped like a burning man......")
-Radio Song (very nice version with funky instrumental breaks for Simi, Deacon, Bird, and guester "fur". )
-Helpless/Amazing Grace (Simone, Nowell with extended singalong by congregation.
-All When We Were Young (vocal no drums, a nice surprise, and a song that has aged very well)
-American Song (requested all night, this has become a classic already, insteading of a goodbye, that it apparently is, this rendition played like a reaffirmation of our bond to one another)

Special night.

also mention that Take This Bread was in Philly and handing out those bagged lunches to folks in Gemantown area and Delaware Avenue area of Philly. Met some really nice folks and had a good time. Also did make a donation of bread over at Philabundance, a local area food bank, on West Berks st. The bag Lunch above is one of the lunches that we gave out.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New interview with James Felice

Intense And Off The Cuff: Our Chat With James of The Felice Brothers
27 November 2009

“I’ll just stand in the middle of this parking lot. It will be awesome,” James Felice laughed through the phone from an unidentified swath of pavement in upstate New York. I’d caught him red handed getting gas station coffee somewhere near his home in the Catskills (“I still get coffee at gas stations for some reason… They’ve got pretty good coffee here actually”), to where The Felice Brothers had just returned after a mostly sold out sweep through the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. The irony of Europeans eating up their rootsy brand of rolicking Americana with such gusto is not lost on James, “Apparently the Europeans like Americana more than the Americans do,” he said, “I don’t really know. I don’t know why they like it so much, but they do. It’s really great for us because we get to travel over there and it’s pretty amazing.”

But “pretty amazing” was about all James was willing to divulge about their across-the-pond antics: “It was very surreal. And, um, I have crazy stories but I shall not share them…with the public. What happens in Europe is best left in Europe, perhaps,” he laughed, “We’ve had a great time. It was wild. There was drunken revelry. We got sick, then we got better. Then we had a lot of fun, we were exhausted and then were, at every turn, amazed at how many people came out to the shows and how much they enjoyed it.”

Overseas partying and internationally packed houses would be a dream come true for any band, but the Felice Brothers have certainly paid their dues. Long before their legendary performance at the 2008 Newport Folk Fest, where their energetic, hour-long, unplugged set in the pouring rain won them a cult-like following, James and his brothers, Ian and Simone, were playing backyard barbecues.

They soon graduated to busking in the New York City Subway. “It was always busy and bustling and we played as loud and as hard as we could,” James remembered, “Sometimes people paid us and sometimes they didn’t. It was pretty exhausting. It didn’t last that long, eventually we got pulled out of the subway to play actual shows. But, while we were down there, it was an amazing learning experience– I’ll tell you that.”

Though eldest brother Simone recently left the band to start the more pared-down, introspective The Duke & The King, James and Ian are joined on stage by washboard player and fiddler Greg Farley, drummer Dave Turbeville and their friend Christmas on bass. “Two brothers in the band and three other guys that are like brothers,” James explained, “We live together, we work together, we tour together. We’re around each other all the time—which is great. Sometimes we get in fights. People throw things, say things that they didn’t mean. But most of the time it’s great, being that close to a bunch of dudes. It’s like being married, I’ve said that before. It’s like being married to four other guys. It’s really intense but it’s really awesome.”

Intensity seems to be the name of the game when it comes to the Felice Brothers. Their headlining gig at the Paradise proved a cramped, crowded and downright rowdy affair. While not surprised, we were glad to see the love Boston showed the boys that Thursday night, “I love coming to that town, anytime. It’s great. I’m really excited to get back there, actually,” James had told us only a few days before. “I love playing Boston. I think besides New York, Boston is my favorite city in the country… Bostonians have a certain attitude that is sort of similar to… I guess the Irish attitude. Just sort of get drunk, have fun. Get in a fight. I love that style. It’s honest and it’s endearing. When they really like something, they really go for it. The shows we’ve played there have all been really vibrant and electric because of the audience. And you’ve got beautiful women there too, in Boston.”

–Jessie Rogers

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Great Reviews From London for The Duke and The King

aside from the the news that Daily Mail columnist Tim Delisle declared the Duke and the King "Reign Supreme", come this article in by Joy Thomas.

If you could be present at any point in the past when and where would you go?

My answer, for a good while, has been 25 November 1976, in the front row at the Winter Ballroom as The Band and their friends recorded The Last Waltz. I am an archivist by trade (I know) and should rightly answer this question with some lofty and important point in history, like hanging out with Martin Luther when he was pinning the 95 theses to that church door in Wittenberg… Well. Hear this, folkingcool. After seeing The Duke and The King I’ve changed my answer. I now feel I could happily go back and dick about with Martin Luther in 16th-century Saxony as my hunger for The Band has been sated. I’d get meself tonsured and evangelise about my new religion called The Duke and the King (and maybe tickle Protestantism up a tad in the process).

Oh, but how would I get this across to Martin Luther? I’d have to tell him what he already knew, that it’s so difficult to explain something that is essentially psychological and spiritual and moving and to over-describe it makes the experience curdle, makes it false (you listening, Pope Leo X?).

The Duke and The King showed themselves to be four people who love and live music: they all took a lead vocal, they swapped instruments, they shared microphones, they flung their arms around each other, they laughed. Usually you get sweat and high spirits towards the end of a set but by song two they were leaping about the stage exuding comfort and confidence in their music, and in their audience. I was reminded of the gospel tradition when they joined in with one another, seemingly when “the spirit took them”. (I’d worry Martin Luther by telling him that WORD magazine pointed out that they could definitely start a cult. And that I’ve already put my name down.)

They’re those peripatetic troubadours who pop into your life to sprinkle it with ideas, songs, and exaltation… and then disappear with but a wink. They’re the people you see in the background of cafĂ© scenes in films (but never in real life). They inhabit one of the really exciting worlds at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree that you have to wait ages for.

To be honest, I’m not even sure they really exist.

I’m spellbound and I don’t believe there are words to describe them. Oh alright, so there are words to describe them but they’re all in the spiral bound notebook of the reviewer who I chanced to be standing next to. Oops. I’m afraid after a few attempts I stuck my biro in my hair, my notebook down my top and used my arms much more profitably to wring my hands in wonder, to clap, to wave, to dance.

Some facts:

The sound was NOT professional, or of quality that you’d expect from such a famous venue. The Scala should be ashamed of themselves.

Simone Felice looks like he’s from Blackadder the Third.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Yonder is the Clock gets one poor review

From CDinsight

Another in our yearly recap is the Felice Brothers, from whom Simone Felice broke off. While their albums don't necessarily merit comparison, there is little doubt that Simone's "Duke and the King" duo took the greater part of the talent in the transaction. To be sure, "Yonder" will please the Felice Brothers fanbase, but does little to reach beyond. While tracks such as "Run Chicken Run" and "All When We Were Young" display the range of their talent, with the former's Louisiana swing propelling it, and the latter's slow rag-time piano, the album on the whole is filled with decent, but not exceptional tracks. The opener, "The Big Surprise," demonstrates exaggerated Dylan-esque vocals, which are, at best, an acquired taste, and worse, somewhat detracting from the song; the energy of the live "Memphis Flu" is impressive, but the track is cluttered and not impressive compared to their contemporaries. Not a poor album for the folk revivalist, but one can construct a list of other folk artists (Sam Beam, Levon Helm, M Ward) who do better to push the boundaries and take you out of your expectations.

pic link

"This Place" from Amsterdam

this often requested item with Reverend Loveday singing. Glad to see this song in regular sets now and with Simone and folks apparently looking to put it on the next Duke and the King album.

quasi music video for Morning i Get to Hell

from MikBowie youtube channel

Neil Mcormack raves again about Simone Felice in London Telegraph


I was at a small venue in London last Sunday, when a call came through from a radio station. Jedward had been expelled from X Factor. The station wanted a music critic to discuss the chances of the non-singing-barely-dancing conjoined twins’ survival outside the artificial womb of “reality” TV, in the actual “real” world of record and ticket sales. To which the only sane reaction, surely, is complete indifference?

I told the researcher I couldn’t help because I was about to watch a performance by one of my favourite bands, The Duke & The King. What I didn’t mention was that they were led by a musician, Simone Felice, who himself can barely sing (at least he has a thin voice, prone to going flat) and has never been known to dance, and who frankly wouldn’t survive the first audition in front of Simon Cowell and his panel of squabbling egotists.

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Ten singers who can't sing What’s more, Felice will probably never hold the attention of an audience of millions on Saturday night TV, never top the charts or cause tabloid hysteria. But on a cold, wet Sunday night in London, he and his band held a few hundred devotees spellbound with one of the warmest, funniest, most intense, emotional and spontaneous performances we will ever be lucky enough to witness, and he will be back doing that, making extraordinary music of the highest artistic standards for years, maybe decades to come.

As for Jedward? They have the kind of gauche adolescent confidence and extravagant hair that sets young girls hormones a-jiggle. Back in the Eighties when DIY pop eccentricity held sway and the excitable Smash Hits magazine dictated the agenda, they might have enjoyed a year of mania before their inability caught up with them. In the modern era of pop as televised light entertainment, I suspect we have witnessed their whole accelerated career arc in weekly instalments, and they will now proceed more or less directly to employment as children’s TV presenters without actually scoring more than a token novelty hit. And they should count themselves lucky. The key element in their act was neither their appearance or voices but their ability to infuriate Britain’s favourite pantomime villain. Jedward’s most insistent hookline was Simon Cowell’s petulant protestations that the X Factor was “a singing competition”.

Despite Cowell’s complaint, popular music is not about singing, and never was. If you insist on only hearing the most technically accomplished vocalists, go to the opera. Popular music is about the delivery of a song, with character and authority, vital ingredients that Jedward lack. Sure, they couldn’t sing. But they couldn’t not sing with any real conviction either. What they did was transparently fake. What people really respond to is the truth.

Ever since Bob Dylan opened the floodgates, any populist poetic voice who wants to communicate in a mass media forum is likely to form a band, whether they can sing or not. Indeed, many of my all time favourite singers have barely a note between them. Can you imagine what Cowell would say if Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Ian Dury, Morrissey, Jarvis Cocker and Nick Cave turned up to audition for the X Factor? But what a gig that would be!

If pop music was a singing competition, how would Mick Jagger, Marc Bolan, Bryan Ferry or Madonna have fared? Johnny Rotten inspired a rock revolution with a voice like a cat going through a mangle. But it is not necessarily even about being an original songwriter. Although Johnny Cash wrote some classics, his cracked, wobbly baritone was every bit as effective when singing other people’s songs, as his late series of ’American’ albums attests. It is about authenticity, the complete ownership of the lyric.

These people have the triple X factor: personality, integrity and vision.

They produce vocals where character matters more than note for note perfection and bring out something utterly unique and transcendent, a real human soul, wrapped up in a song.

That is why I was out listening to the fractured warblings of Simone Felice instead of being hypnotised by Britain’s favourite pop freak show. And why real music fans will keep coming back to see how he is developing and find out what he has to say, when Jedward and the rest of the X Factor also-rans are long forgotten. It is why, ultimately, Felice will prove more important to pop culture, and actually sell more records and tickets over his lifetime than any novelty fad. If we must listen to singers who can’t sing, surely we had better find ones with songs worth singing?