Rather than some studious authenticity, they sound like they're just having a good time.
Chris Jones 2008
Hailing from upstate New York's Catskills Mountains, the Felice Brothers look like their entire approach was based on staring long and hard at the Band's second album cover: Beards, white shirts, hats and ill-fitting suits. The comparisons to Big Pink/Basement-era Dylan are also inevitable. Yet this second album proper from the three siblings and their bass player Christmas (an ex-travelling dice player, apparently) is so chock full of whiskey-soaked, ramshackle bonhomie that it'd be a hard-hearted music critic indeed who didn't succumb to the charms contained therein. The group have somehow taken Americana and wrung out some more good times. It's time to visit the bar again…
With most of the numbers croaked out by brother Ian, whose vocal chords draw most of the Zimmerman comparisons, this is a collection of songs that are equal parts travelogue, shaggy dog story, drunken lament and filched traditional fare. They're all captured in gloriously scratchy lo-fi (complete with ambient chat, phone conversations and other audio verite) as befits a band whose last recordings were supposedly completed in a chicken coup on a two-track. And while their first album, Tonight At The Arizona, was a little too same-y when digested in one sitting, this is a much more varied feast.
Like Dylan, their self-mythologising puts them not in the modern age, but somewhere in the early part of the last century. Jaunty, piano-led ballads like Greatest Show On Earth or Take This Bread are lifted by parping brass and rollicking choruses, like a night out in a riverfront bar, filled with unfaithful women and gun-toting men (guns are mentioned in just about every song) bent on drunken revenge. Elsewhere the waltz time of Ruby Mae approaches a Tom Waits-like pathos. Whiskey In My Whiskey sounds like a murder ballad that's centuries old.
Yet all these tales are shot through with a red-eyed humour that sounds as authentic as their beards. This is how they manage to convince the listener. Frankie's Gun! With it's truck driving narrative and wheezing accordion is particularly hilarious. Rather than some studious authenticity, they sound like they're just having a good time. And that's just about the only recommendation you need to seek out this fine album…