Where to start with this second solo album from Simone Felice, the poster boy of current Americana with a honeyed voice, great songwriting chops and a back story that could fuel several LA screenwriters for the next few years? Famously near dead on two occasions Felice transcended the (very fine) roots rock of his brotherly band in his guise as the Duke and The King before he delivered the Cri de Coeur that was his initial solo album. Two years on and he sounds less pained, not as vulnerable but as transcendent as ever.
The opening romp, Molly-O! is a fine slice of blue eyed country pop soul with the zest of Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl in its DNA and sets one up for a sun kissed celebration of life. Instead we get a tremendous collection of metaphysical ruminations expertly played and always with Felice’s voice singing to the heavens. He drapes himself in a Gene Clark cloak for If You Go To LA, a banjo led and orchestrated hymn to the city of Angels which emphasises its spiritual emptiness while Running Through My Head carries on in this vein with Biblical allusions, the opening lines paraphrasing Psalm 23. Our Lady of The Gun is a powerful and visceral dissection of American calamities combining school shootings with armed forces lost in a desert war both trying to find some sense in their teachings about God and the Devil. With pummelling percussion and heavenly harmonies it comes across as a secular hymn to much that is wrong with America today.
Felice is sure footed throughout the album as he delivers the sepia toned Bye Bye Palenville and the velvety Heartland which recalls David Lynch’s trick of peeling back the white picket fence of normality revealing a dark cocaine fuelled underbelly. Finally he strips away the veneer for the initially stark Bastille Day which swells with vocal arrangements as Felice attempts to escape the turmoil with his “skin on skin” lover before the closing song The Gallows where Felice offers himself as some sort of sacrificial lamb, transcendent and ascendant. One is tempted here to wonder whether Felice suffers from some messianic complex, taking on the world’s guilt and figuring he can atone (given that he has been resurrected) but there’s no doubting the beauty of this and of the album overall. Suffice to say that Felice sings like an angel and that the songs sound heavenly. Happily enough he’s bringing the songs to the UK with a short tour. Tour dates are ;
Wed 2 Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
Thu 3 Leeds, Brundell Social Club
Fri 4 Bristol, Louisiana
Sat 5 Nottingham, Maze
Sun 6 Manchester, Deaf Insitute
Wed 9 Brighton, Komedia
Thu 10 London, Bush Hall
Fri 11 Glasgow, King Tuts
Sun 13 Newcastle, Cluny
Tue 15 Edinburgh, Electric Circus