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The Felice Brothers

Undress – 2019 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by The Felice Brothers

The New York-based Felice Brothers deliver social and political commentary laced with dark humor in an appealing mix of rock, folk and country. Brothers Ian (guitar) and James Felice (keyboards, banjo, accordion) front the quartet along with drummer Will Lawrence and bassist Jesske Hume.

The opening title track appears to take a poke at the Trump administration with the reference to "chain of collusion" in what is otherwise a series of seemingly unconnected observations ("Caesars of Wall Street/Brooklyn bridge undress/Comanche and Iroquois/Exploitation genocide undress"). Similarly, "Days of the Year" is a Dylanesque stream of consciousness with some clever wordplay ("Exchanging pleasantries under pleasant trees").

The rocker "Salvation Army Girl" has a Velvet Underground feel to it while alluding to a David Bowie tune ("All of the junkies here agree/She looks a lot like Jackie Kennedy/You ought to see it man, the way she glides/Whistling 'Rock & Roll Suicide'"). The folksy "Special Announcement" has a particularly cynical view of the economic elite ("Pleasing all the financiers/All the corporate goons/All the mobsters eating lobber in dim lit rooms").

The strongest country tracks are "TV Mama," a social commentary on the obsession with celebrity ("Victims of glamour/Locked in a dream/Luck is the only/Way to the screen") and "The Kid" which focuses on PTSD ("He was back from the war/His brain was on fire/And he lived in the darkness of dreams") featuring guest Peter Adams on pedal steel.

Produced by Jeremy Backofen the dozen songs were essentially recorded live with minimal overdubs amidst strong compositions and solid performances.