Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Felice Brothers to get Rockin’ and Rowdy at Castaways

The Felice Brothers are a four-piece band the fits into the broad categories of Americana and perhaps alt-country. But with a band this great, categories don’t matter, the music does. When I got the chance to ask James Felice some questions he gave me his take on categorization. “Ray Charles said that there are two kinds of music. Good music and bad music. I'd like to think ours is the good kind.”

One of the elements integral to making the music really work is the way each band members’ part comes together to form the whole. James told me that the writing and arranging is “all about what sounds good. And what we can play, or figure out how to sort of play it for that part or song.” Well it works and man, can these guys play and rock. And they rock really hard. If you don’t think some combination of accordion, acoustic bass, banjo, acoustic guitar, piano, washboard, fiddle and drums can make you dance, I challenge you to go to The Felice Brothers Show at Castaways on April 24 and stand still. That said, they also play some seriously lovely tunes that make you want to grab your sweetie and dance slow. The show starts at 8 PM and tickets are available at the door.

Part of what makes their live shows so fun is that after they moved from the Catskills to New York City they played on the streets and subways in the city to make a living. In fact, they were discovered while busking in the Brooklyn Farmers Market. “When you busk you have to draw people's attention to make money. You have to be aggressive and a little rowdy,” James Felice said. In addition, they don’t plan out what songs they are going to play during their shows. “We don't write set lists. That’s like wearing briefs. . . .” There was an additional line from James in this quote, but as this is a family paper, I had to leave it out. Use your imagination.

I wanted to know if the fact the band’s three Felice Brothers (James, Simone, & Ian) grew up in the Catskills had any influence on their music. “I don't know, to tell you the truth. We never grew up anywhere else, so I couldn't tell you if it influenced us. It probably did. It's a great place to grow up, though. I'll tell you that.” The forth member and bass player is simply known as Christmas.

While I don’t generally like to use comparisons with other bands, I am going to go against my general rule here. If you like the Horseflies, The Sim Redmond Band, or Old Crow Medicine Show, you’re sure to dig The Felice Brothers. This is also an incredible opportunity to see these guys in an intimate venue, as they will be heading to Europe in May and then playing large festivals in the US all summer. And at $10.00, it is a bargain. I, for one, am looking for a baby sitter.

Also Noteworthy:

There are some bands you remember exactly where you were the first time you heard them. For me Soul Coughing is one of those bands. I was living in Chicago and a friend of mine hipped me to them. The first song I heard was, “Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago.” I was hooked and I have been listening to Mike Doughty’s work ever since. That said, it was with great anticipation that I opened Doughty’s latest solo CD, Golden Delicious, (released February 19 of ATO Records) and popped into the CD player. I was brought back to the hooks and turns of phrase that initially grabbed me back in, gulp, 1995. The album’s most powerful track is the sublime anti-war track, “Fort Hood,” a song about soldiers going to Iraq and returning home. The power of this song is increased by the melding of serious lyrics with very danceable music and contains a “sample” of “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sun Shine In),” from Hair. One of the major strengths of Mike Doughty is he brings a super eclectic blend of music to the mix. You never know where he is going to take you on his journey—but it’s always going to be a good and funky and rockin’ place.


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