Saturday, September 18, 2010

KDHX hails the Felice Brothers

Team Love /
The Felice Brothers, originating from the Catskill Mountains in the state of New York, fool around with pianos, guitars, horns and accordions — weathered Americana. Their music floats atop the old-timey music scene poignantly and fluffily, like a big mean marshmallow in a cup of hot chocolate.
Throw in quaint yet beautiful lyrics about women named Lenore and Ruby Mae, and ya got a pleasant saloon sing-along, the type in which you throw an arm around a buddy and carelessly swing a glass pint of dark microbrew to and fro.
The sound will vicariously carry you to another period in American history, for a common Felice Brothers thought is: They remind me of….
When I listen to the flimsy and amusing piano opening on “Greatest Show on Earth,” I am transported to Elmer Bernstein’s compositions in the Billy Murray comedy Stripes. But that’s just me; others see more rational influences, like Bob Dylan and the Band.
The lyrics also travel through American time vessels. There are a handful of words couched in history. Guillotine is one. Samurai, another. And the 20th century is no exception: cars, jazz, baseball. (Not!) And so when the Felice Brothers croon, you feel like they are summoning the spirit of another era with their blunt metaphorical language embedded somewhere between 1860 and 1960:
A bottle of scotch
A dime sack and a diamond watch
Wouldn’t you like that?
A bottle of gin (what?!?)
A typewriter and a violin
Wouldn’t you like that?
A sunny day, a shotgun and a Chevrolet
Wouldn’t you like that?
A painted scene, our voices on the city green
Wouldn’t you like that?
A microwave, a pillbox and a jack of spades
Wouldn’t you like that?
But the Felice Brothers don’t steal from our past — they honor the sound of our rich history, and in the process add something new. The band tipped their cap to America’s greatest humorist, Mark Twain, by pulling a passage out of The Mysterious Stranger to name their latest album, Yonder is the Clock. And even though some folks will continue to claim the Felice Brothers are derivative — an attempt to be Bob Dylan and the Band — sometimes, who cares? I reckon not everything good is entirely original.