Ian Felice, the lead singer of the Felice Brothers, has taken his time in getting round to a solo album, but In the Kingdom of Dreams has been worth the wait. Produced by Simone Felice, who also drums, it’s an acoustic album that looks to the past in an attempt to separate actual memories from things told and to see how these have shaped the present. It starts with the title track, a simple fingerpicked folksy number that sets out the Dylan influences as well as the thematic stall.
Although the instrumentation is fleshed out with piano, things stay broodingly spare on Will I Ever Reach Laredo. The same can be said of the wryly playful 21st Century which is of a decidedly Loudon Wainwright III persuasion in its snapshot of contemporary America’s mental health with its lines about aliens arriving on Election Day, and a whistling saw occasionally arising behind the steady banjo accompaniment.
In Memoriam is another fingerpicked number, remembering the death of his stepfather when he was eight, picking out such banal details about the Price is Right playing on the TV. Perhaps appropriately enough, it’s followed by the funeral march pacing of Signs of Spring, although the lyrics are more of rebirth as he sings “you are the end of a 7-year rain.” Such positivism is quickly dispensed with on Mt. Despair, another song to mention rain and a grave, here that of Liza Jean, a childhood friend who, it would suggest committed suicide in depression.
Road To America is another song drenched in rain which picks up the pace for a sprightly romp that name-checks the Velvet Underground, Mickey Mouse and Smokey the Bear as well as a thinly veiled allusion to the current White House incumbent in its line about “the empire of Donald Duck.”
Water Street (more rain) is a highly personal folk blues comparing himself as a husband and father to memories of his own father, who walked out on the family when he was young, determined not to follow in his footsteps, noting “Sometimes I walk the tracks, but I always come right back and feed the cats in the boiler room.”
With its discordant piano notes and strummed guitar, Ten To One is a musing on mortality that (presumably fuelled by some illness) talks of a meeting on the road with Death, beheading daisies, offering a countdown chorus and a sobering reminder that “You owe nothing to the world but death. The grave does not distinguish which is which, the poor or rich.”
It ends on a kindred note with brother James on electric piano for the downcast In The Final Reckoning, a touch of Cohen imagery set to a rustic hymnal melody that, like most of the album, may not leave you feeling full of the joys of life, but does find grace in sorrow, which is perhaps, in these times, is the best balm we can ask.
In The Kingdom Of Dreams is out now via Loose, available on CD, heavyweight vinyl and as a download.
Ian’s book of poetry is available from ianfelice.com, along with a selection of related paintings.
Ian Felice UK Tour Dates
Ian Felice will be embarking on an intimate solo tour of the UK in November. Tickets are on sale now for the following shows:-
22 Nov – MANCHESTER, Night And Day
23 Nov – EDINBURGH, Voodoo Rooms
24 Nov – NEWCASTLE, Live Theatre
26 Nov – NOTTINGHAM, The Maze
27 Nov – LONDON, Borderline
28 Nov – BRISTOL, Thekla
29 Nov – BIRMINGHAM, Hare & Hounds
30 Nov – LEEDS, Brudenell