Album | The Felice Brothers – Valley of Abandoned Songs

The world tends to play tricks on you when you least expect it. Though the Felice Brothers have been recording for almost two decades, singing songs of faith and despair, hope and heartbreak, dealing with every aspect of the human condition. Yet when it came time to release Valley of Abandoned Songs Ian Felice was content to put it out on Bandcamp. That is until he sent a copy to Conor Oberst. Having put out two previous Felice Brothers’ albums on a label he co-owned, not to mention recording Salutations with them almost a decade ago, when Oberst heard this new collection, he created Million Stars to give it the release he felt it deserved. 

Ian and brother James, along with adopted brothers from other mothers (and fathers) Jesske Hume (the first female Felice brother) and Will Lawrence have created this latest missive from western New York, treading between lightness and dark, wending their way through the wonder of existence and the ever-present sense of impending doom. With each step they take, the souls they sing about are revealed as humans with the foibles of living in this modern age. ‘Crime Scene Queen’ reveals a world that isn’t always as welcoming as it may seem. “Through the palms of pleasure island/ an ominous wind began to blow.” We all seem to live in places where nothing is quite what it seems. 

It’s tough to find hope at times, as Felice makes blatantly obvious on ‘It’s Midnight and The Doves Are In Tears’. Optimism can be hard to find, “From the jawbone of a donkey / To the atom bomb,” Felice sings. “Science and progress / What have you done?” Amidst the piano and bass are notes of just how awkward life has continued to become. 

Despite the uncertainty of life in 21st century, where hope seems to be in short supply, Felice takes stock and makes a statement to his child in ‘To Be A Papa’ that is crystal clear, “Stay with me/ For the road is long/ And the winds are strong/ And I’ll stay with you.” That’s a promise worth hearing again and again. We live in an age where there is so much seemingly out of control, but those words frame against piano, guitars and drums offer the kind of reality that can be counted on. 

In their way the Felice Brothers seem to be responsible with developing a balm for the times we live in. When hope seems lost, when things feel at their worst, they find the rhythm and rhyme of time that is a salve for our wounds. As acoustic guitars strum, they find hope, “I’m just sitting in these flowers by the roadside/ I’ve got no reason to hide/ I’m happy watching the wide world go by.” Which sums up Valley of Abandoned Songs, because in the end the Felice Brothers always find hope never goes out of style.