It seems drawn from the very subsoil of American music.
Michael Quinn 2009
The fifth album in three years from the Felice Brothers offers more of the same deliriously coruscated Catskill Mountains-rooted, folk-edged alt country. Happily unlike anything to come out of the States in recent years, the five-piece outfit (only three of whom are siblings) boast a distinctively muscular, rough-hewn, dirt-under-the-fingernails sound. It seems drawn not so much from grass roots experience as dug determinedly up from the very subsoil of American music.
It’s voiced in a raucously poetic manner frenetically fashioned from frayed, washed-out vocals, lonesome drunken piano, garage-acoustic drums. Guitars are loud, jangly and electric and steel, as well as whispering, confessional and acoustic. Slicing through it all, there is an accordion that weeps and wails with wild cathartic abandon.
The imprint of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan (not least in accordionist and lead singer Ian’s cracked nougat-and-nicotine voice) and the Band is stamped through Yonder Is The Clock like lettering through seaside rock. But that’s Mark Twain, the father of American literature, in the album’s title, his knowingly humorous homespun tropes also no less influential here.
Sailor Song, on the other hand, is pure Tom Waits, albeit after a good gargle. And there’s more than a hint of the mellifluous morbidity espoused by near-neighbour Leonard Cohen in the mournful Boy From Lawrence County.
Not everything, though, sounds filtered; the feverish Memphis Flu as close to an authentic tea-chest bass, washboard and hooch-bottle hay barn hoedown as you’re likely to find this side of the Atlantic. And lead single Run Chicken Run proves to be a joyful moonshine-fuelled delirium that sparks and spits like a cornfield on fire.
And beneath it all, a cantankerous disaffection peppers the sentiment, a troubling, treacherous undercurrent that threatens to sweep away happiness and drown dreams. Which just makes The Felice Brothers seem all the more admirable and Yonder Is The Clock all the more treasurable.