The Felice Brothers play a very rootsy type of Americana, filled with great story telling and interesting characters. Like Dylan before them, their songs are very literal, like mini novels. They take a lot of influence from the likes of Mark Twain, as well as the music of those aforementioned artists. They hail from upstate New York and originally started playing in that cities subways. The band features five members; Ian and James Felice, Christmas Clapton, Greg Farley and Dave Turbaville. They are famed for their rollicking live shows.
Tonight at the Arizona (2007)
Key Track: Ballad of Lou The Welterweight
On the Felice’s debut release proper, you can already tell their influences, with some cracking folk tunes and cracking storytelling, demonstrated best in Ballad of Lou the Welterweight. The album is made up more of folk ballads than fast tracks, although a cover of T For Texas is a bit more uptempo. Fun Fact: The imperfections you hear in the track Hey Hey Revolver were due to a lightning strike during it’s recording. The band decided to keep it as it was.
The Felice Brothers (2008)
Key Track: Frankie’s Gun
The bands self titled second album is, in my opinion, their classic release so far. It has a nice split between slow and fast numbers, some great musicianship and some amazing song writing. Songs like Greatest Show on Earth, Wonderful Life, Take This Bread, Love Me Tenderly and Whiskey In My Whiskey ramp up the full value of the whole band as they feature piano, accordian, fiddle and all manner of other instruments. You will also hear Frankie’s Gun on this album, perhaps the bands most well known song, and an instant classic. The album, as with all of their albums, is full of tales of small time criminals, and shady characters. It’s no surprise that ex brother/member Simone Felice has written a couple of novels.
Yonder Is The Clock (2009)
Key Track: Run Chicken Run
The Felice Brothers first album to hit the Billboard charts (#20) and the first time I had heard of them. It is basically more of the same, some of the songs display their full on ragged glory such as Penn Station, Run Chicken Run, Chicken Wire and Memphis Flu. On the other hand you also have some more striking storytelling such as Cooperstown. I don’t think the album has as many great moments as their previous album, but they are still on top, top form.
Celebration, Florida (2011)
Key Track: Ponzi
Two years on from Yonder Is The Clock, and The Felice Brothers take a radical turn with this album. They mostly drop the rootsy Americana that has established their name, and go for a more electro sound. It takes a while to come to terms with, but some of the songs are the best they have done. The likes of Fire At The Pageant feature unlikely components like child chanting and semi-rapping. It sounds strange but it’s really great. Despite this new sound, the band haven’t lost any of their songwriting capabilities. The album reached #5 in the Billboard charts.
God Bless You, Amigo (2012)
Key Track: Mating of the Doves
The album was released on the bands website as a download only, giving you an option of how much to pay for it. It is a mix of Felice originals and covers of old folk songs. It is a return to the sound of their first albums which is nice to hear, but also maybe some what a backwards step after Celebration, Florida.
Some other albums of interest…
Nothing Gold Can Stay (2009) – The Duke and The King
Long Live The Duke and The King (2010) – The Duke and The King
The band formed by Simone Felice upon quitting The Felice Brothers. Named after the two con artists in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the band has a more soulful element to it, but still nods to that Americana sound of his previous band. It maybe more polished, but there is still much to enjoy on both albums.
Simone Felice (2012) – Simone Felice
The solo debut by former Felice Brother and current member of The Duke and the King, as well as published novelist! A talented guy, and this album showcases his songwriting abilities really well. The production values are big, and some of the songs maybe a bit weaker than his previous bands material, but it’s still a pretty good listen.