By Doug ColletteApril 04, 2012
Simone Felice’s first true solo work upon departing from The Felice Brothers consists of ten vivid tales recounting people in places not just obscured by shadows, but also lost in them, searching for enlightenment to erase the sense of dislocation that afflicts such characters as the principle of “Hey Bobby Ray.”
There, in an otherwise spare forlorn setting, a gospel chorus supplies hope. On “You & I Belong” a bouncy rhythm that only comes from a genuinely carefree mood surfaces, while the story of “New York Times” displays a tale of despair until it finally sinks in that the New Year’s Eve ritual is a testament to hope.
Such a precarious balance of vivid material and strictly restrained production characterizes this Felice recording. In line with his deceptively strong voice, no matter how fragile the characters sound--and the speaker himself sounds positively brittle and ready to shatter in “Stormy Eyed Sarah”-- they not only persevere against the odds, but turn them in their favor by holding on to the shreds of pleasure they have encountered along the way.
On “Ballad of Sharon Tate,” the judiciously restrained organ amplifies its mood of paralysis. In “Splendor in the Grass,” the single violin functions as a flashpoint for the sensuous instance of the climax. And during “Dawn Brady’s Son,” the acoustic guitar is the foundation upon which Felice sparingly adds electric guitars and some ghostly harmony vocals.
The images in that number are pure poetry, comprising one of those the ever-so-rare songs that freezes a moment in time for reflection in the hopes some truth emerges. The drama inherent in the material itself is amplified by the instrumentation and the tracks are as compelling as well-wrought short stories because the melodies have the same density of detail as the lyrics. ”Gimme All You Got,” then, is but one track on Simone Felice that, in its performance and arrangement, literally reflects the sense of life lived with a quiet abandon, in which experience is welcomed, albeit cautiously, rather than ultimately resisted through self-doubt.