Album Review: Simone Felice

22 April 2012 | 12:36 pm | Steve Bell

...those who give him a chance to spin his magic are in for a soothing and affirming journey indeed.

Simone Felice – The Felice Brother who sounded like Cat Stevens (rather than his Dylan-esque brother, Ian) on those early albums and who later formed the equally accomplished The Duke & The King – has struck out on his own for the first time, and with his self-titled debut's heady mix of gospel and Americana has hit pay dirt straight away.

Felice has long been renowned for his deft lyrical imagery and adroit word skills – he's rapidly becoming a feted author – and that trait continues throughout Simone Felice. There are numerous instances of allegory and symbolism at play – songs such as the epic New York Times, the acidic Courtney Love and the seemingly morbid Ballad Of Sharon Tate all seem about their titular subject matters on the surface, but repeated listens unveil a deeply personal vein of self-analysis running through them. The slightly saccharine You & I Belong, on the other hand, is clearly for his newborn daughter, a treatise on the inherent joys of simply being alive.

Musically the songs are closer to the mellow tones of TD&TK rather than the ramshackle folk of The Felice Bothers, given lush but uncomplicated treatments and relying primarily on Felice's voice and each track's dominant instrument – predominantly guitar or piano. There are plenty of guest players – including his bothers and various members of his previous outfits, plus Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons, who also co-produced the album – but this is in all possible ways Felice's baby, and his alone. His wonderful worldview won't resonate with everyone – it's couched far too ornately for many people's tastes – but those who give him a chance to spin his magic are in for a soothing and affirming journey indeed.