Hailing from the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York, the Felice Brothers blend folk, Americana, and revivalist roots rock into a uniquely earthy sound. The Felice Brothers clearly value inspiration over technique, though their evocative, '60s-influenced sound reveals they're capable instruments with solid vocal harmonies. The group made the most of their scruffy, back-to-the-land approach on 2008's The Felice Brothers and 2009's Yonder Is the Clock, but with 2011's Celebration, Florida, they experimented with more ambitious and impressionistic arrangements, and they gained strength as songwriters on 2019's Undress.
Brothers Ian, Simone, and James Felice grew up in the Hudson River Valley, several miles away from the musical hamlet of Woodstock. Such icons as Bob Dylan and the Band once found inspiration in the region, and the Felice youngsters were driven by a similar muse, gathering every Sunday afternoon for jam sessions and cookouts at their father's house. As their skills improved, the brothers opted to leave the Catskills and relocate to New York City.
With James playing accordion, Simone playing drums, Ian handling guitar/vocal duties, and a former dice-playing friend named Christmas Clapton on bass, the quartet held informal performances in subway stations while hawking its debut album, 2006's Through These Reigns and Gone. Recorded in a chicken coop by the bandmates themselves, the album was rough and imperfect, as was the follow-up effort, Tonight at the Arizona. Such a distinct, ramshackle sound found a quick audience, however, particularly after the band toured alongside Bright Eyes and participated in one of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble performances in late 2007. The new year brought similar luck, as the Felice Brothers inked a deal with Team Love Records and released a self-titled LP in early 2008.
Several rounds of touring followed, including festival stops at Bonnaroo, All Points West, Mountain Jam, and the Newport Folk Festival (where an afternoon rainstorm cut power to the stage, resulting in an impromptu acoustic performance in the mud). The Felice Brothers then returned to the studio, emerging in 2009 with Yonder Is the Clock. More touring followed, including stints with Old Crow Medicine Show, Justin Townes Earle, and the Dave Matthews Band, culminating in the release of a new long-player, Celebration, Florida in 2011. Simone Felice subsequently dropped out of the group to pursue a solo career and work with his side project the Duke & the King, but in 2014 the new lineup of the Felice Brothers -- Ian on vocals and guitar; James on accordion, keyboards, and vocals; Greg Farley on fiddle and vocals; Josh Rawson on bass and vocals; and David Estabrook on drums -- released the album Favorite Waitress and set out on a major tour in support. For their next album, 2016's Life in the Dark, the group jumped labels, releasing the set through the roots-oriented indie Yep Roc Records. May 2019 brought a second album for Yep Roc, Undress, a brass-fortified effort that debuted a new edition of the Felice Brothers, with Ian and James joined by Jesske Hume on bass and Will Lawrence on drums and percussion. ~ Andrew Leahey