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SOLO DEBUT FROM AMERICANA KINGPIN
Colm O Hare, 27 Mar 2012
Simone Felice, the former drummer/vocalist with The Felice Brothers and the man behind folk-soul collective The Duke & The King, is lucky to be alive. He barely survived a congenital heart condition in summer 2010 and had to undergo open-heart surgery. No wonder the songs on his solo debut are introspective, though not necessarily downbeat. Self-produced with assistance from Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons), the 10 songs were recorded variously in a barn in the woods, an abandoned schoolhouse by the Hudson River and in an old church in London. The natural reverb and haunted atmosphere of these not-so-exotic locations is apparent throughout and the largely acoustic arrangements are sympathetic.
It starts on a cheerful note. The rousing choral backdrop on the opener ‘Hey Bobby Ray’ (courtesy of the wonderfully named, Catskill High School Trebleaires) is followed by the equally joyous ‘You And I’. Both are designed to provoke a mass singalong – and no doubt will when Felice plays here in April.
Elsewhere, things are less upbeat. Felice’s voice is a fragile thing to be sure. The stark, mournful ‘Courtney Love’ is a plaintive rumination on loneliness and desperation, with just guitar and harmonica. The ‘Ballad of Sharon Tate’, inspired by the Charles Manson murders in 1969, is almost as unsettling as its subject matter.
The lush backwoods textures of ‘New York Times’ recalls Felice’s Woodstock neighbours, Mercury Rev, while the gorgeously melodic ‘Stormy-Eyed Sarah’ resembles something The Band might have come up with in their Big Pink heyday. An impressive outing.