Raised in the Catskills of Upstate New York, the Felice Brothers grew up in the shadow of Woodstock, spiritually as well as geographically. Their boisterous Americana bears the deep imprint of classic '60s roots acts The Band, CSN and Neil Young, while Ian Felice's raspy drawl invokes Bob Dylan. Just five years ago they were busking Manhattan subways. Now they're preparing their fourth studio release, Celebration, Florida (due May 10).
Until now, their music's been firmly in the roots-rock pocket, with rambling narrative balladry to vigorous ramshackle odes crackling with their spirited live energy. The prior two releases, including 2009's Yonder Is the Clock, were for Conor Oberst's Team Love Records, and swayed with woozy organic warmth like mid-career Bright Eyes. But it seems they intend to shake up that formula with Celebration, Florida.
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First single "Ponzi" sheds the backwoods hoot-enanny vibe for an urbane, piano-driven cabaret strut lingering with film-noir menace. Showcasing unseen sophistication and elegance, it coasts on foreboding organ peals, a choir of backing vocals and a brief spate of competing TV/movie samples as it reveals the story of a crooked banker. It's easily their most cinematic song—and a sign they refuse to be marginalized as Americana.