Hailing from the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York, the Felice Brothers blend folk, Americana, and revivalist roots rock into a uniquely earthy sound. 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. ~ Andrew Leahey
With ‘Undress,’ their first new album in three years, The Felice Brothers manage to walk that delicate tightrope between timely and timeless, crafting a collection that’s urgently relevant to the modern social and political landscape without ever losing sight of the larger picture. Offering moral clarity and sober reflection through nuanced character studies and artful parables, the band tips their caps to the biting wit of Mark Twain and the keen observation of Woody Guthrie here, presenting a series of portraits that mix the mundane and the fantastical in such a way as to blur the line between reality and metaphor: a man tosses all of his possessions into a smoldering crater; a White House spokeswoman stands
naked before the nation; a small town kid turns to crime when his neighbors forsake him. In the world of The Felice Brothers, the traditionally powerful—politicians, preachers, pundits—are comical at best, rendered impotent by their own narcissistic ambition, while those who traffic in kindness and generosity are larger-than-life heroes, cast as everyday saviors walking the streets of a thankless society. In that sense, ‘Undress’ fits neatly into a long tradition of American folk storytelling, embracing what came before it even as it offers its own unique 21 st Century twists along the way.