Simone Felice: Call him Simon and file him under Wrong-Eyed Music.
My Brennan MP3 deck is a beautiful thing when it is working as it should – it has had a couple of bugs, which Brennan were endlessly patient about fixing – and has been a great comfort during moving house. Set it up, simply by re-connecting the speakers, switch it to Random, and I am instantly plugged back into the last several years of my musical interests, and collections put together by my nerdwork, the Vinyl Anoraks Circle.
First up this morning was I Like It, a celebration of being a fool for love by Maggie Brown, who picked up an instant worldwide fan club when she sang in country-goth musician Jim White’s film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus, in which he tried to explain what it meant to grow up in off-highway, deep-south USA – the heart of Florida, in his case.
It was, he said, “like living under a blanket”.
The whole soundtrack is worth having but first of all check out Maggie Brown in duet with Johnny Dowd at
The Maggie Brown album which followed the film was a bit of a rush job but it’s likeable and I Like It is a great rockabilly blues number. Sample it at
There is a little more about Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus elsewhere on this website, at
Wrong-Eyed Music could amount to a genre and the Felice Brothers would fit it. I am reminded of them by Neil McCormick in Teleg. 5.4.14, reviewing a new album called Strangers ….
A founding member, with his siblings, of raucous Americana group The Felice Brothers, Simone (the “e” is silent) is a poetic singer-songwriter to rival the very best. He left his brothers in 2009, recording solo and as part of country soul ensemble the Duke & the King.
With two critically acclaimed novellas to his name, Felice has an unabashedly literary sensibility, and a particular knack for taking intimate personal narratives and widening them so they hint at the musical equivalent of the great American novel.
Bye Bye Palenville is a gorgeous meditation on the responsibilities of fatherhood, while Our Lady of the Gun shifts from a classroom shooting to the battlefields of Iraq to focus on America’s ambiguous relationship with firearms.
Felice has a melodic flow that never lets his powerful words overburden the songs, his spookily intense delivery bedded in lush but understated arrangements combining acoustic guitars, shades of strings and soulful harmonies.
Strangers is his most measured and thoughtful album to date. By the time you reach The Gallows, his weirdly uplifting contemplation of impending death, you know you have been taken somewhere special.
McCormick recommends starting with Bye Bye Palenville, which you can hear via YouTube at
First impression: yes, it’s beautiful
I bought a Felice Brothers album a few years ago and it keeps coming back at me through the Brennan and making me check who it is. In fact, my favourites list includes at least one track from it, Take This Bread …
The Telegraph is very good on Americana and the same edition has Helen Brown talking to Emmylou Harris about an upcoming UK tour and the re-issue of her last big hit album, Wrecking Ball.
I never bought Wrecking Ball but reading about it, I want it, because it is Emmylou covering the best of other people’s songs. Maybe five years ago, I saw her in Manchester, singing her own songs, solo, and I was disappointed. Emmylou, much as I adore her, was made to be a collaborator and somebody advised her badly when she set off down the singer-songwriter route. When I read that on Wrecking Ball she covered Steve Earle’s Can’t Remember If We Said Goodbye, I’ve got to hear it – and as it happens YouTube has footage from the Jools Holland show of Emmylou singing it in duet with Earle, which will do as just perfect for now …
Incidentally, the Telegraph interviewer amused Emmylou by mentioning that Rufus Wainwright had summed up her appeal as “churchy, but you can just see her knickers”.
PSs of the day:
* For the Classic Filth collection, I note Operation Blues by Hank Brown, which I got the easy way, by buying a collection of western smut called Griddle Greasin’ Daddies And Dirty Cowboys.
* To add to both Great Drinking Songs and The Wit Of Blues, I need I Ain’t Drunk, I’m Just Drinking, by Jimmy Liggins, from a collection of the best of Aladdin Records …
* Sometime I need to check out whatever happened to Kieran Kane. Sample him at
* You want a great collection for a birthday present for anyone who remembers the 60s, try Fire & Fury, the best of the soul productions of Bobbie Robinson (thankyou for that one, John Baxter). Read about it at http://www.cherryred.co.uk/shopexd.asp?id=13/