The former drummer, songwriter and vocalist for The Felice Brothers and published author of two novels of elegiac lament for lost America, Simone Felice, has long been associated with the dusty bandana-sporting Americana that his debut album so clearly displays.
Whilst strikingly simple in its arrangements, mostly guitar, with piano and a slow country tap of the drums, Simone Felice shifts the listener’s focus onto his poetic balladry.
His story-telling remains most compelling on New York Times, which finds Felice scanning the news, delivering a bleak slice of human life and its injustices. It is shaded with such lyrical detail; he demonstrates his clear ability to paint vivid pictures of reality – to shine a light onto unheard, unseen situations and perspectives.
It is frustrating that despite his poetic capacity, You & I Belong, Ballad of Sharon Tate and Gimmie All You Hot are swathed in syrupy production. Ballad of Sharon Tate is lyrically uncompelling; in using consistent lyrical repetition ‘Did you see what they wrote, on the door’, Felice cannot fall back on the same simple arrangements which on New York Times and Splendor in the Grass work so effectively. His use of a slow tambourine tap, backing vocals and a prosaic organ on You & I Belong, Ballad of Sharon Tate and Gimmie All You Hot push the majority of his debut album towards the half-hearted and ineffectual middle of the road.
Songs of memory, regret, reminiscence and desire, Simone Felice’s debut provides captivating storytelling, engaging balladry. His voice quavers throughout the album; it is a gentle, effecting American murmur. His ability to draw such vocal sincerity in tracks such as Stormy-Eyed Sarah, Dawn Brady’s Son and Courtney Love evoke a haunting, gospel resonance.
Recorded in a disused barn, a London church, an abandoned high school building by the Hudson River, Simone Felice evokes a hushed, hallowed sentiment throughout the album. Whilst Simone Felice is never unpleasant to listen to, Felice currently lacks the instrumental imagination, playful enthusiasm or ability to hold his listener rapt, as he has with The Felice Brothers. Whilst he is in possession of fine lyrical ability, and instrumental experience, he fails to deploy it effectively on his debut album.