Tag Archives: The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers set sail to Australian Shores

That merry band of Hudson River vagabonds, The Felice Brothers have a fourth full length album Celebration, Florida ready to launch and even more excitedly, they are finally making their way to Australia for a handful of shows in Sydney and Melbourne this April. This Lost Shark snapped up a ticket to their show at the legendary Annandale Hotel in Sydney and now I am marking the days on the calendar in anticipation.

More than any band working today (at least in my world), they know how to write a mean ballad. Channeling Guthrie & Dylan through a filter of rambling blues and the raw sensuality of the carnival, The Felice Brothers have penned some of the finest barroom ballads of the past decade. Songs like Ballad of Lou the Welterweight, Rockefeller Drug Law Blues, Katie Dear, Frankie’s Gun & Cooperstown have marked them as unflinchingly honest storytellers. To quote the Filter Good Music Guide,

the places and people they’re singing about aren’t literary devices but actual people doing their damnedest to rage against the growing darkness.

The song that has been drawing me further and further in to its menacing narrative is Boy From Lawrence County from their third album, Yonder is the Clock. When Ian Felice sings,

Be so kind, tell me warden
who’s in line to die this morning
can I see the show?
If he bore his teeth to scare us
would we see our likeness sheriff
in the pearly glow?

it never fails to raise the hair on the back of my neck. You can read the full lyric here and better still, here’s the brothers in all their full-throated glory, live at The Tractor in Seattle.

Roll on April, roll on.


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The New Folk XIII – Vlautin, Felice & Lanegan

The touring circuit is hitting a mid-year peak, with a glut of great singer/songwriters hitting our shores in the coming months. Here’s a taste of some of the artists I am anticipating great shows from in the months of May, June and July.

We Used to Think The River Sounded Like a Freeway – Willy Vlautin & Dan Eccles

Willy Vlautin is undoubtedly one of the best storytellers to ever pick up a guitar. He has been described as ‘the Dylan of the dispossesed’ and likened to authors such as John Steinbeck for his crisply realised images of characters at the end of their rope. And for the first time, Australian audiences are getting a chance to see Willy (accompanied by Dan Eccles) play live, thanks to the roaring success of his band Richmond Fontaine’s eighth album, We Used to Think the Freewat Sounded Like a River and more importantly his critically accalimed third novel, Lean On Pete. Willy is in Australia as part of the Sydney Writers Festival, but Brisbane also gets a look in on Saturday May 29, with Willy reading and talking about Lean on Pete at Avid Reader at 4pm and then playing a set from the Richmond Fontaine back catalogue at The Troubadour that night. Tickets for both these events are now available and I am sure they are not going to last… artists like Vlautin are a rare commodity.

One More American Song – Simone Felice

Another rare commodity is Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Duke & The King). Felice, like Vlautin, is an acclaimed singer/songwriter, who has also had great success as a poet and experimental novelist (Goodbye Amelia, Hail Mary Full of Holes). One More American song is an example of Felice’s lyrical richness. In the song he remembers Johnny, a boy from school with fiery red hair, who, thanks to the horrors of war has become the king of bottle tops, pushing shopping carts in a parking lot. It is this kind of raw narrative that Felice pens so well. And like Vlautin, Felice is making his way to Australia for the first time too, but unfortunately Brisbane is not part of the tour… Sydney and Melbourne only. Maybe next time…

Bombed – Mark Lanegan

From his days leading Seattle grunge gods Screaming Trees, to cameos with Queens of the Stoneage, Isobell Campbell, Soulsavers & The Twilight Singers, Mark Lanegan’s voice has become a sort after instrument. It has that whiskey-soaked, lived-in-leathery versatility that can stretch effortlessly from blues to country, gospel to full-tilt rock. Lanegan is like a heady mix of Johnny Cash and Charles Bukowski, most at home telling tales of the underworld, where drug deals, petty violence and squalid love affairs are common place. So if you like your stories seedy, get along to one of Lanegan’s Australian shows this July. He plays The Zoo in Brisbane on July 9.

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The New Folk

I am loving the new folk/country sound that is currently being embraced by so many bands, both old and new. Here’s a taste of some new sounds from some of the artists who are making waves in this Lost Shark’s world.



One More American Song – The Duke and the King

Another slice of brilliance from the super talented Simone Felice. Felice toured as a poet for over a decade and has penned two novels alongside his songwriting credits for The Felice Brothers and now The Duke and the King, and his work as a writer is evident here… this is lyrically superb. This is from their debut album Nothing Gold Can Stay.



The First Days of Spring – Noah and the Whale

Charlie Fink is a man with a broken heart. This fact is not hidden in any way shape or form on the album The First Days of Spring. Fink has also turned his talents to producing a film of the same name. This may well earn a place as one of the great breakup albums of all time… lovelorn and luxurious.



You Can Move Back Here – Richmond Fontaine

This track is from this Oregon quartet’s supremely titled eighth long player, ‘We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River’. Singer/songwriter, Willy Vlautin, is another man with two novels under his belt (Motel Life and Northlines). Vlautin’s literary musings combined with the bands sonic palette have produced some breathtaking songs during their career… can’t wait for this album to hit our shores.


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Ballad of Lou the Welterweight

Every so often a poem or a song hits you from left field and leaves you reeling… Well I got king hit recently by Ballad of Lou the Welterweight by The Felice Brothers. From the moment the accordion rolled  and the cracked voice and guitars hit, I was transported by the narrative of Lou, a boxer with ‘a way like Errol Flynn’ as he climbed into the ring with Joey, ‘a big dumb kid from Flushing’. And when the song finished I hit the back button and let it wash over me again and again and again… The threadbare production adds a warmth sadly lacking from most CD’s these days and as the liner notes boast, they sound ‘all the more golden for it.’ The Felice Brothers, a group of hard-living, Dostoevsky reading, Hudson River pirates may well be the find of the year for this Lost Shark.

Here are the lyrics to Ballad of Lou… but before you read them, watch them perform it live. I have a feeling this is where the rough-hewn magic of The Felice Brothers is most deeply felt.


and this one live in a lounge room





Ballad of Lou the Welterweight

Powder your nose
Pull off your panty hose
Let me love you from behind
My darlin

Powder your nose
Pull on your panty hose
We’re going down to my bout
My darlin

Before the bell would ring
He had a way like Errol Flynn
As he sauntered to the ring
With a sheet on

But the late rounds scared the girl
Heaven knows she thought the world
Of Lou, it was hard to see him sway
In the neon

Joey was a no-one
Just some big dumb kid from Flushing
He had a face like an ugly boy
Always pouting

He hit Louie kind of low
And he fumbled on the ropes
As the bookies blocked the rows

Powder your nose
Pull off your panty hose
Let me love you from behind
My darlin

Powder your nose
Pull on your panty hose
We’re going down to my bout
My darlin

The blows were hard and loud
He could hardly hear the crowd
In the bleechers where they howled
They were cheering

I remember in the eighth
It was clear that Lou was fading
When something caught his eye
By the ceiling

He saw her as she spoke
Through the shifty yellow smoke
She said “Louie you look bad,
Are you dying?”

But Louie could not answer
His eyes were cast up to the rafters
And then they slowy sealed
In the silence

Powder your nose
Pull off your panty hose
Let me love you from behind
My darlin

Powder your nose
Pull on your panty hose
We’re going down to my bout
My darlin


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