Released: March 2014
With some wonderfully lyrical songwriting and intimate, yet stately, production, Strangers is an all-round excellent album from a very talented singer-songwriter.
Simone Felice has had a busy career. As well as playing with bands the Felice Brothers and The Duke & The King, he’s also found time to pursue a solo career. Strangers, his second solo outing, shows a man utterly at ease with himself musically. A collection of 10 mellow and occasionally melancholy songs, Strangers still manages to stand out from the singer-songwriter pack thanks to Felice’s gift for narrative lyrics and understated, classy production.
Though most of the songs here are built around Felice’s voice and an accompanying acoustic guitar or piano, they have a warm, rich quality with plenty of ear-catching accents, including some lovely horns on Bye Bye Palenville and The Best That Money Can Buy and what sounds like a whirling Hammond organ on album closer The Gallows.
While Felice’s voice and playing are excellent, the real strength of Strangers is his talent as a songwriter. Every song here feel like a little narrative snippet of another time or place or character made personal by Felice’s intimate vocal delivery and given a sense of timelessness by the Americana tinged production. If you’re struggling for a point of comparison think somewhere between the poetic storytelling and lived-in production of Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, Elvis Costellos’s King Of America and Ray LaMontagne’s Gossip In The Grain.
In fact, the only real complaint here is that Felice occasionally takes this Dylan influence a little too to heart, adopting a strange, rambling free-association style vocal delivery on a couple of tracks such as opening number Molly-O that I guess was meant to add to the ‘storyteller’ aspect of the songs but is instead oddly distracting – especially when Felice’s singing is generally so beautiful elsewhere.
Other than that, the material here is universally strong though the sustained, sombre mood can lead to occasional restless moments. One or two slightly more adventurous or distinct tracks wouldn’t have gone amiss but rest assured, if its stately piano ballads and rustic hymns of commitment you’re after, you’re in luck – Strangers has those in abundance and they’re all fantastic. A truly excellent album from a very talented individual.