The Felice Brothers: Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT 9/4/08

How startling it is to watch and listen to The Felice Brothers?

Imagine if you will five characters that seem to have walked straight out of tunes from Bob Dylan and The Band’s Basement Tapes. Their connection with the rustic mythos suggests they heard that music as infants or perhaps even Music From Big Pink, from within the womb?

It’s no wonder one-audience member wondered aloud “Are these guys for real?” If The Felice Brothers are not, then they are one stellar piece of musical theatre, equally so through the lead singing of Ian whose voice and style echoes Dylan (without aping him) in a wholly nonchalant manner or his more outgoing sibling Simone, who is equally happy to bang together a couple of saucepans for his stripped down drumkit, while he sings his heart and ass off.

With marionettes bobbing and weaving in close quarters on that tiny stage, The Felice Brothers demonstrate the virtue of sloppiness in more ways than one. As on “Where’d You Get the Liquor,” their playing as an ensemble just hangs together, but they always manage to hit the beat and the note at the right time.

Beneath the high-spirited surface of the performance, the songs the Felice Brothers choose to sing and play, such as ”The Country Is Gone,” “Your Belly in My Arms,” and “Got What I Need” all contain overtones of mystery and danger inherent in mystical concerns about death, sex and redemption, seemingly close to the collective heart of such comparatively young men.

Yet the Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground has rarely held more joy than The Felice Brothers brought in and left behind. If you couldn’t really believe your eyes and ears after emerging into the warm early fall evening, that’s all the more reason to feel they can’t return too soon.

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