Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hearsoundswrite: Yonder is named #2 album of '09

When the Felice Brothers took the stage of the North Charleston Performing Arts Center in February, as the opening act for Old Crow Medicine Show, I was giddy for a set of songs from their charming yet derivative 2008 self-titled album. I hoped they'd open with a Dylan/Band rewrite like "Little Ann", "Take This Bread", or "Frankie's Gun". Instead, the band launched into a bounding, fiddle-heavy chase theme ostensibly titled "Run, Chicken, Run". Wow, I thought. This sounds...kinda like they should sound. The singer's voice is natural, in no way straining for Dylan's nasal wheeze or Levon Helms' aw-shucks drawl. When Yonder Is the Clock dropped a few months later, it was evident that they were washing their hands of the Dylan-clone stigma (although it'll be tough to dodge the comparisons when Ian is such a ringer, vocally). Look no further than track number one, the aptly name "The Big Surprise". Rising into a piercing climax in the form of a sharp fiddle note/drum hit 1-2 punch, the rest of the album isn't quite so foreign but still seems distinctly Felice, at least more so than anything before. "Penn Station" takes the train-song archetype and validates it with a superbly thrilling chorus. Slow, aching lament "Buried in Ice" tells the story of an unfrozen and reanimated body, questioning his futuristic revivers for not saving his beloved as well. Unfortunately, what would be an A+ album is marred by the inclusion of a barnhouse demo take of standard "Memphis Flu", clearly an aesthetic decision, but one that drags on for over two minutes and would have benefited from full production. Still, the album is a lunge in the right direction for a band that might have maintained a level of success as career Dylan/Band sycophants. It's to their credit that they're not content with emulation, something they've to proven with Yonder Is the Clock.