The Felice Brothers | Yonder Is the Clock (Team Love)

cd_felice.jpgFollowing in the tradition of Seeger and Dylan but also building upon it, New York roots-rockers The Felice Brothers have released, Yonder Is the Clock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s something nostalgic about that genre of uniquely American music called "roots." After all, roots music is about cobbling together other forms of inherently American music (folk, country, blues, jazz, zydeco) and forging something new. There are tough questions about the roles that irony and earnestness play in the efforts of any modern roots band to embrace the style and, consequently, the nostalgia. Specifically, how does a band do the genre justice but not sound derivative or overly sentimental?

Following in the tradition of Seeger and Dylan but also building upon it, New York roots-rockers The Felice Brothers have released, Yonder Is the Clock, successfully navigating this thorny question with a combination of impassioned, sincere playing and winking, irony-free jest, while alternately uplifting and depressing (and sometimes both at once). Guitar and accordion, played by eponymous brothers Ian, James and Simone, wound around with Greg Farley’s fiddle and Christmas Clapton’s simple drumming, rise to rollicking, boozy highs and sink to dark, hangover lows.

This is best exemplified in the dual suite of "Chicken Wire," with its Dylan-esque organ and hoedown vibe, and the accordion-fueled dirge "Ambulance Man," which staggers out of the previous song like a sad drunk stumbling out into the night.

Ian Felice’s vocals weave through all of the ups and downs, wailing loss and despair, punctuated by moments of humor and hope, all encoded in enigmatic stories about train stations, baseball, lost love and wanderers of all stripes. The album’s opener, "The Big Surprise," captures the best of Ian’s clear-eyed observations, lyrically longing for a bright, hoped-for day in the future that, yes, will probably be a big surprise, and that will take work to get to.

It’s the sense of that opener, continued through the peaks and valleys of the album, which makes Yonder Is the Clock a suitable soundtrack for these troubled American times. And what is good roots music, if not an American soundtrack? A | John Shepherd

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