It appears few are completely immune to the electronic virus that’s been infecting so many unexpected artists lately to some degree or another. Even The Felice Brothers, usually known for their wholesome blend of Americana, folk and roots rock seem to have caught it on their most recent release, Celebration, Florida. But do not fear. Enough of their original identity is still brightly in tact, and in this case, the alteration of sound actually comes as a welcomed change-up, only helping to create a stronger—albeit different—type of creature.
Throughout Celebration, the upstate NY-based quintet’s eighth studio album, this newfound accompaniment from the digital sector is introduced in a variety of doses, and sometimes not at all. And though it may manage to confound a listener at first, once it does become exactly clear what’s going on here, these gems reveal themselves with a unique and multifaceted brilliance.
On the mild side, you’ve got numbers like “Back in the Dancehall,” which sees Greg Farley’s gentle fiddle hum over a boom-boom-clap beat just as easily as some robotic ‘80s synth dabs, and “Container Ship,” an eerie and distant piano-driven track of warning that further depicts the mood when a mechanic hip-hop beat enters the equation midway through. On the other hand, there’s the rugged stomp of opener “Fire at the Pageant,” which only features a few turntable scratches scattered about, not changing the dynamic of the song but simply sprinkling some modern touches for good measure.
“Ponzi” is a different story altogether. Starting off ordinarily enough, with a comfortable, ragtime-like sing-along melody and shades of what might be a pop-song structure, it eventually hits a turning point and shifts its shape entirely. What emerges is a hodgepodge of an almost Daft Punk-sounding hook supported by guitar blurts and littered with charging shouts and an array of chaotic samples. Unexpected as ever, but it’s likely the most fun on the album.
But the organic, unadulterated Felice Brothers still make plenty of appearance here too. Take “Dallas” and “Best I Ever Had,” both merely a man—Ian Felice to be exact—with his guitar, his thoughts and Hank William-reminiscent vocals, and “River Jordan,” which starts slow but closes in style with a full-bodied, rocking jamboree that’s passionate and proclaiming, and certain to rattle some nerves.
So in the case of Celebration, there’s no need to seek a cure or remove the mild signs of this new electro strain. The Felice Brothers prove here they’re alive and well.