Album two sees New York’s Simone Felice once again mark himself out as a lyricist and songwriter of real distinction
ew York songwriter and poet Simone Felice cut his musical teeth as the drummer in the Felice Brothers, alongside siblings James and Ian. Following the band’s hiatus in 2009, Felice released two acclaimed albums with his friend Robert Burke under the moniker Duke & The King. However, it wasn’t until 2012, a full six years after the first Felice Brothers record, that Simone ventured into solo territory.
The frequently sombre Simone Felice saw echoes of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen’s storytelling, with the folk of America wrung from Felice’s delicate, wounded voice set to a backdrop of frosty country and americana. While follow-up Strangers may have lost none of the literacy of its predecessor, it happily sheds some of its sorrow for a less harrowed tone.
That much is evident from opener Molly-O!, with Felice sounding more like The Boss than ever, before breaking into a chorus that rings with the influence of folk-rock luminary Wesley Schultz. However its twinkling melodies make it something of a false prophecy, for Felice is not happy on Strangers… he’s simply content.
“Gettysburg has the air of a man happier with his lot”
This can be heard on Running Through My Head, a mixture of Live’s Throwing Copper and R.E.M’s Out Of Time, albums that traded in an everyday malaise, rather than a lumbering despair. Gettysburg, too, has the air of a man happier with his lot, rather than seeking digging holes in which to bury himself in. Here Felice asks listeners to “come on down if you can”: it’s a sort of arms-around-each-other number, one to carry you through a slightly less sprightly summer than you’d hoped for. This is a sentiment that’s repeated in Bastille Day.
Felice’s self-titled debut won fans for its eloquent tales of woe and though there’s less anguish on Strangers, he still finds time to tackle darker subjects. Closer Gallows takes the lyrical theme of a public hanging and is narrated by the condemned man. Much as in Patrick Süskind’s macabre fantasy novel Perfume, the crowd jostle for a position at the front. Unlike Süskind’s tale though, the climax sees no orgy of hedonism. Instead Felice’s protagonist sees the “ladder” descend from heaven, “light as a sparrow” as he’s “on his way” to peace.
Strangers is another finely crafted piece of songwriting that sees Felice once again displaying his lyrical gift and skill for melding Americana and country.
Verdict: Literate, country-inflected Americana