Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Second Thoughts on Death: The Felice Brothers

Talk about identifying too much with an album! The morning after I finished writing about John Mellencamp’s long reflection on death (which of course I was listening to while I was writing), I woke up feeling like death warmed over. Speaking of death, astute TR readers will have noticed that the Felice Brothers was removed from my Shopping & Reader Rec List because, well, it has been acquired.

What does that have to do with death? Well, let’s just say that most of the Brothers’ tunes are like little operas where someone (or everyone) dies or contemplates killing someone.

Here is the album's body count as far as I can tell (and cause of death):

  • The Deputy (shot dead in a Mercury)
  • Frankie's Partner (Frankie's Gun of course)
  • Our Only Boy (winter's cold)
  • Tracy (the needle)
  • St. Stephen (stoned--and not metaphorically)
  • Crowd of Ten (crazed circus elephant)
  • The Elephant (revengeful townspeople . . .you saw that coming, right?)
  • Edith Cavill (firing squad)
  • St. Peter (if you don’t know, shame on you!)
  • Ruby Mae (stalker)
  • Eleanor (three rounds from a .44)

Forgive me if I missed some passings in my listening--and I should note that this doesn’t take into account the threats, beatings, cuttings and other abuses that are recounted on this disc.

All of which is not to say this isn’t a “fun” disc. I doubt it is going to make the year end “top-album lists” or become some great classic, but it is one that I am sure will get many a listen to around here at the TR (we have a dark side you know).

The tunes all feel like they are set in the 1930s either in some small mill town honky-tonk or occasionally in the working class neighborhood of the big city (I'm going with Chicago since crime and graft are common themes including the album ending guide about how to “tip your way into heaven”). The stride piano and frequent use of growling trumpet and trombone add to that feel—and got to say the differing vocals and accordion get a positive review from me (I am so easy, I know).

Bottom line, if you are a fan of folk music, early jazz, and gritty lyrics/stories, check it out.


Payton said...

nice write up. never thought of doing an album-body count.

As of now, this one WILL make my end of year list.

the first time i heard whiskey in my whiskey, i thought it a little boring, but the lyrics are simply perfect - now it's one of my top songs on there....

don't forget to pick up some of their previous stuff - just as good, if not better.

CPS said...

Funny--I think I took out a parenthetical phrase in this post that said (although it might make mine) after I said it won't make top-album lists, so I am not really in disagreement with you there Payton.

As for the body count? A perfect activity while stuck in commuter traffic!