It’s easy to see why Conor Oberst fell for The Felice Brothers, picking them up for release on his fledgling Team Love imprint in much the same way Two Gallants found a home on Saddle Creek some years ago. As with that band, these Catskill natives mine fields riddled with Americana staples: murder, love, death and betrayal all contemplated against a backdrop of desolate train stations and dilapidated freighters, Coney Island beaches and New England winters. Taking its name from a Mark Twain passage, Yonder Is The Clock bleeds the kind of folksy sincerity that could so easily fall flat. It doesn’t endear itself with immediate effect, either. Rough-hewn to the point of occasional sloppiness, haunted by the spectre of The Band (Ian Felice’s smoky rasp bearing an uncanny resemblance to that of a certain Bob Dylan), and a touch overlong, it nevertheless emerges an utterly compelling whole.
Roots rock. It’s a genre in which creation is so helplessly intertwined with imitation by definition. And so a band like the Felice Brothers , as steeped in revivalism as anyone this side of the Hold Steady , becomes tragically hard to appreciate on its own merits.
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