The Felice Brothers put out their self-titled debut in 2008. A year later, they put out two new releases, Yonder is the Clock and a self-recorded disc called Mix Tape. Originally intended as a free recording for fans to pick up at shows, record label Team Love (Conor Oberst‘s label), decided there was money to be made and put it out nationally.
That’s a very good thing for people unable to see The Felice Brothers live. Mix Tape is a strong record comprised of tracks that the band deemed unworthy or just didn’t fit on Yonder. By my count they are mostly right. The songs here are good, but I don’t think I would replace anything on the former record.
I’m reminded of the movie Songcatcher when I listen to The Felice Brothers for some reason. Probably because they come from the Catskill Mountains where, as in Songcatcher, songs are passed down through the generations. It gives everything they do a homegrown feeling that I find charming. Coming from that area also provides some great influences.
A lot of people (critics, mostly) have tossed out comparisons to The Band and Bob Dylan when they talk about The Felice Brothers. Those comparisons aren’t completely wrong. When listening to any of their three records, you can definitely hear touches of both. I would say the difference, at least to me, is that The Felice Brothers seem to be having a lot more fun while they play. The lyrics can be solemn and serious, but there’s always an underlying feeling of a group of guys just hanging out playing music for and with each other.
On Mix Tape, there is a mix bag of words both tragic and comedic in almost every song. Take, for example, these lyrics from the beginning and end of the song “Marie“:
You say we ran our course
And I’m feelin’ like a racin’ horse
Got a feelin’ I’ll be runnin’ all my life
You say this song’s in G
I don’t fuckin’ give a shit
I wrote this song in the key of love
There’s also a point in “Marie” where it sounds like The Felice Brothers are about to break out an old-school rhyme-off. It doesn’t happen, luckily. What does happen, on this track and every other one on Mix Tape, is a musical tribute to the past as they push folk music into the 21st century.
If you’re a fan of bands like Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, or Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, definitely check out Mix Tape and the other releases by The Felice Brothers. Their brand of folk music is something I like to call “Campfire.” It’s easy for me to imagine a group of people sitting around together, singing these songs and enjoying one another’s company, drinking the night away.
- The Felice Brothers hail from the Catskills in New York and are:
Ian Felice (guitar/vocals), Dave Turberville (drums), James Felice (accordion), Christmas Clapton (bass) and Greg Farley (Fiddle).
- Mix Tape is available on the group’s website for $10 (CD).
- The Felice Brothers will be playing at The Empty Bottle on Friday, October 15. Tickets are $15.
The Felice Brothers performing “Marie” at the Chameleon in Lancaster, PA