Courtesy Big Hassle Media
The measure of success for the typical budding musical group is the height its debut single reaches on a Billboard chart. For the Felice Brothers, the measure of success was how much change they earned playing for NYC subway commuters. From the outset the Felice Brothers scream authenticity and their rural home — just minutes from iconic Woodstock — is a key component in establishing their distinct, modern take on classic folk-rock sound.
With a blend of fiddle, piano, guitar, organ, drums and a wavering, gruff-sounding lead vocalist — plus the occasional contributions from a horn section and a washboard — the Felice Brothers are not likely to wind up on Zach Braff’s next indie mix tape. True to their genre, the Felice Brothers’ lyrics recount stories of lost love, heavy drinking and late-night shenanigans at the local drinking hole. “The Greatest Show on Earth,” the second track on their eponymous album, manages to contain all elements in a single stanza, “Everyone knows she’s the killin’ kind/ She keeps a .38 Smith and Wesson at her side/ I put a pistol in my pants/ ‘Cause were going out to dance/ Where the water drinks like cherry wine.”
But the clear standout track is “Frankie’s Gun,” a drum- and organ-based, slant-rhyme infused, meandering tale of a road trip with a backstabbing friend. The witty lyrics and catchy chorus are balanced by the retro instrumentation and a harmony seemingly produced by the gun-toting troublemakers at the local speakeasy.
The Felice Brothers are a welcomed reprieve from today’s over-processed vocals, super-clean guitars and haphazard synthesizer interjections. After a long week in the suburban jungle, the Felice Brothers might just be the perfect band to help you unwind, relax and take the load off, Frankie. Though they came from humble beginnings on subways, they’re unlikely to stay underground for long.
You can check out the band at Smith’s Olde Bar on Tuesday.
by Photography Editor Brett Weinstein