The Felice Brothers started out as New York City subway buskers who possessed the reckless abandon to leave their home in the Catskill Mountains with a vision of roaming the world as troubadours.
Since they’ve made their descent, they’ve taken no rest, appearing on the bill with Old Crow Medicine Show, The Killers and Mumford and Sons, making the cut for Bonnaroo and Coachella, sharing the stage with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and playing the Midnight Ramble, a concert series held at the home of The Band’s (you know, like Bob Dylan) late, great Levon Helm in Woodstock, New York. (They’ve also played Lebowskifest, which you may not think is as impressive, but that’s just, like, your opinion, man).
The Felice Brothers have traversed the states and crossed the Atlantic to deliver honest, unpretentious music that spins yarns of the universal human experience, narrates the lives of haunting characters and calls forth an earnest hopefulness that can make people dance long through the night to roaring and stomping accordion-driven fiddle tunes, dirty guitar licks (the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Neil Young) and cool, calm and collected bass-heavy melodies.<!–embed_quote_1–>This year, they’ve been on tour to unveil their most recent album, Favorite Waitress (which is notably a reference to Twin Peaks, just in time for the announcement of its return after 25 long years). Although they’re often pigeonholed as a folk or Americana act, The Felice Brothers reiterate that they’re unafraid to take creative risks; Favorite Waitress has a 1990s alt-rock flavor that hearkens to a time when MTV still played music videos and music was more of an art and less of a charade.
Favorite Waitress is their first album to have been recorded in a proper studio – they’ve recorded earlier albums in a chicken coop, well into the early hours of the morning (and much to their neighbors’ displeasure). In spite of their home nearly being destroyed by an unstoppable force of nature, their van being mercy shot somewhere in the hills of Vermont (“long may she stalk the golden highways of Heaven”), hospitalizations, and the theft of their accordion and fiddle in St. Louis, they’ve persevered. Nearly a decade since they first left home, they continue to make tracks across the land and play in a different city nearly every night, undaunted.
It is worth mentioning that Americana is a genre that is too often bastardized and too often strived in vain to be emulated by the tragically hip. Too many singer-songwriters peddle their music as if it were only a commodity to be bought and sold. So many pick up a guitar only to follow a predictable formula in an attempt to appear rugged and world-weary because they awoke one morning and thought it would be chic to bang around on an old acoustic and tread the beaten path of singing about the worn-out clichés of midnight trains and country roads, while they know nothing of either. Too often, they paraphrase and plagiarize preceding artists, don a costume that becomes their thinly-veiled charade and have the audacity to stand before the people as a prophet of a God to which they’ve never truly cried out.<!–embed_quote_2–>Maybe to the untrained ear and the unwearied heart, such snake oil is a passable substitute. However, for those who’ve come in hope of deliverance, for a balm to soothe their forlorn ache, the words of these false prophets fall flat and ring hollow in the hearts of those who paid for this but they’re given that.
The Felice Brothers breathe new life into Americana just as it is gasping its final death rattles at the hands of charlatans.
Their crooning melodies lay the audience bare, more vulnerable than the singer on stage and his burning, thousand-yard-stare. They plunge the crowd into a mournful, contemplative lull before resuscitating them with a ragtag fiddle tune about drinking.
Although The Felice Brothers deny such accusations, they’ve often been compared to Bob Dylan and The Band. It’s often been suggested that their music is an homage to The Basement Tapes. Maybe the comparison is so often made because it has been as long as since Bob Dylan and The Band burned the midnight oil in the basement of The Big Pink, just a few miles down the road and a few years before Woodstock, that the world has seen such honesty in music. They may draw from the same well of inspiration, but their music is much more than a recycled impression riding the coattails of a fading preceding era. The Felice Brothers rekindle the embers and fan the flame of Americana with an entirely new interpretation of the style of music that is so often cheapened by imitators.
Their music leads the audience through a labyrinth of melody which awakens memory, sorrow and joy. It flows from them like the ebb and flow of the ocean tide beneath the moon, with a simultaneously mournful and rapturous sound.
The Felice Brothers are the lonesome call of crickets and wood whisper in the still of the night, the glimmering light of the far, distant star. They are the dewy birdsong in the misty morning fog in the final, fading moments of the dark night before dawn. Their music is the exhilaration of the open road, the intoxication of falling in love, and the terror of the uncertainty of what’s next.
As you read this, they are likely driving through the night to come play some songs for you beautiful people. If you’ll come forget your troubles for a while, come out to the Taft Theatre on the evening of October 12th to allow them to make the world alright for a few hours.