The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers music is a burning tumbleweed rolling through a ghost town. The brothers recorded part of their self-titled album in an old chicken coop and others in an abandoned train under bridge. Their songs are full of haunting beauty, wild tales, and eerie anachronism. This is one of those rare albums – like Big Iron World or To Hell Or Barbados – that made me stop and just stand by the stereo in awe the first time it played. The Felice Brothers are Simone, Ian, and James Felice and a boy named Christmas. Simone is also author of the novella Goodbye Amelia. Their album was released earlier this week by Team Love Records, a label that is gratefully branching out from mundane “indie” rock into much more adventurous musical endeavors.

Songs like the harmonica bruised “Little Ann”, “Wonderful Life”, and the whisper soft steel “Goddamn You, Jim” creep in with a fuzzy distance akin to Grant Lee Buffalo‘s Mighty Joe Moon and the swaying cabaret dancer lament “Ruby Mae” might be mistaken for The Decemberists, but these songs are settled with a thicker layer of dust and grit.

I don’t know if Bob Dylan would ever consider collaborating with Tiger Lillies, but if he did it might sound something like “Greatest Show On Earth”, “Helen Fry”, “Frankie’s Gun!”, or “Love Me Tenderly”. “Greatest Show On Earth” and “Helen Fry” are particular fantastic, and earn The Felice Brothers a spot in my demented circus genre. The former song slinks in with serpentine Dapper Dan piano and leering ringmaster narration before bursting into a Civil War era freak show of brass, voices, and hand claps. And the latter is the quintessential blend of the brothers’ mountain folklore and carnival macabre.

“Frankie’s Gun!” and “Love Me Tenderly” keep the claps, rousing group vocals, and clamorous instrumentation, but drop the sideshow act in favor of whiskey drenched cowboy fare that Dylan and Springsteen prolly wish they’d written. I could say the same for tavern anthem “Whiskey In My Whiskey”, but the gruff vocals and deeper swagger are more like Tom Waits or the murder ballads of Nick Cave.

There really aren’t enough synonyms for awesome.

The Felice Brothers – Frankie’s Gun (mp3 removed)
The Felice Brothers Official Site
The Felice Brothers MySpace

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12 thoughts on “The Felice Brothers

  1. I bought this on your recommkendation & have been listening to it twice a day for a week. It’s like Dylan & the Band crossed with Tom Waits crossed with . . . shit, I don’t know, but it’s fucking great.

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