By ANDREA MURRAY
Gazette Contributing Writer
This was in yesterday's Daily Hampshire Gazette.
The Felice Brothers recall the folk era of the '60s, with their floppy hats, worn leather shoes and button-down collar shirts.
And it isn't just their appearance.
Lead vocalist Ian Felice sounds eerily similar to a legend of '60s music whose birth name is Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan. In fact, some people have said The Felice Brothers borrow too heavily, in terms of both their songs and their looks, from icons of the American folk music scene like Dylan and The Band. But James Felice, the band's accordionist, says he doesn't mind being compared to the greats.
Interviewed last week by phone from the group's New Paltz, N.Y., studio, he said, "It's an amazing thing to be compared to them [Bob Dylan and The Band] in a good way or in a bad way. I know people ... [might think] we're like ripping them off or whatever, which is fine, they can think whatever they want. It's very flattering. I don't really hear it too much, but it's good to hear it."
A Northampton crowd will be able to see firsthand how the band stacks up next to the '60s when they take the stage at Pearl Street for a Saturday performance.
Certainly, geography may have had something to do with the brothers' gravitation to folk music.
The trio grew up 20 minutes from Woodstock, N.Y., the onetime home of Dylan, in the small town of Palenville, where drummer Simone, 31, singer Ian, 26, and James, 21, formed the band in 2006. Later on, their friends Christmas Clapton, 21, a bassist, and Greg Farley, a fiddle and washboard player, joined the band.
The group first gained exposure when they moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., where they busked on the city's streets and subways. For James Felice, who had played piano for 10 years, their street gigs required him to take up the more portable accordion.
"I'm probably a better piano player so I like to play that more, but the accordion is just fun. It's a fun challenge; I'll play anything," Felice said.
After touring constantly and getting the chance to open shows for bigger artists, including Deer Tick and Old Crow Medicine Show, the band began to gain a following. After playing on the road with Conor Oberst's band Bright Eyes, Oberst - who has also received comparisons to Dylan - signed the group to his label, Team Love. The group's first nationally distributed album, the self-titled "The Felice Brothers," was released last March and their newest record came out earlier this month.
"It's called 'Yonder Is The Clock'. It's really good, we really like it, Felice said. "It's more cohesive [than our previous releases] and it's much better."
Named after a line in Mark Twain's novella "The Mysterious Stranger," the album is filled with tales of love, death, deceit, train stations and even baseball. Compared to earlier releases, the album has a more sophisticated and orchestrated sound.
A bit surprisingly, at the top of the list of American musicians Felice counts as influences, a list with names like Skip James, Randy Newman and Neil Young, is the late rap artist Notorious B.I.G.
"Notorious B.I.G. was one of the greatest American poets who ever lived, and just his flow and the things that he sang about or rapped on or whatever are unbelievable. I'm a country dude so I guess I can't really relate too much, but I can feel it," said Felice. "That's the most important thing about all these people, they're just honest and true."