- Ambulance men: The Felice Brothers
If you've had your old Bob Dylan records in rotation again lately, no one could really blame you. If you're wary of becoming that person at the bar whose musical taste seems to end with the 1970s, though, consider swapping out your Basement Tapes for The Felice Brothers' new album, Yonder Is the Clock.
The Americana darlings (move over, Avett Brothers) are made up of brothers James (accordion), Simone (drums) and Ian Felice (lead vocals and guitar), with bassist Christmas Clapton and fiddler Greg Farley. Moving to New York City from their native Catskills, the group started out playing subway stations and hawking its 2006 self-released debut. It's been a meteoric rise from those humble beginnings, with performances at Levon Helm's home concert series, tours with Bright Eyes, and becoming regulars on the major festival circuit.
Released earlier this month, on Team Love Records, Yonder Is the Clock is the Felice Brothers' second major album, a collection of raw, ragged music delivered with wheezy, seasick accordions, twangy electric guitar, and an atmosphere both oppressive and freeing. While comparisons to Dylan and The Band (and Tom Waits, on songs like "Sailor Song") are cliché at this point, they're still entirely apt.
In lesser hands, this kind of search for an old America of Jesse James (the subject of one song) and Mark Twain (the source of the album's title) can feel kind of Ren Faire, a self-conscious antiquing that's perhaps analogous to making music about hobbits and outer space.
Fortunately, the Felice Brothers aren't lesser hands, and their songs pack plenty of modern-day emotional punch. In some cases, they use the ubi sunt poetic device to bridge the eras, as in "Ambulance Man": "Where is that old movie screen / That my eyes have seen? / Where are your warm summer winds? / Where has my lover been?"
And while we're asking questions, why not do a little time-traveling yourself?
The Felice Brothers with Willy Mason. 8 p.m. Wed., April 22 (doors at 7 p.m.). Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $13. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com