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Though still in his 30s, there’s no denying Simone Felice has led a full life, on both sides of the ledger. A writer and veteran of local bands since his teens, most notably the Felice Brothers (whose drum kit he left in 2009) and then the Duke and the King, Felice has also endured a lifetime of health crises resulting from a congenital heart defect. It’s the kind of thing that provides a poet-songwriter with a bottomless well of material. Lack of material for songs isn’t the problem on Felice’s generally likable solo debut. Each of the 10 tracks is populated with relatable characters—even when he invokes celebrities like Courtney Love he manages to skillfully humanize her. But while there’s hardly a bummer tune on it, the entire album drifts by without leaving a mark.
Felice has a great voice with a soft coarseness, but like the simple acoustic strumming that accompanies it, he seems content to reside in a safe middle ground, both tunefully and lyrically. “Stormy-Eyed Sarah” fails to construct more than a ghostly outline of the titular woman, though Felice leaves a bomb in the middle, saying her father “beat you blue and black.” A few of the tunes, such as “Dawn Brady’s Son” and the opening “Hey Bobby Ray,” have a loose-limbed swing to them, informed by gospel-tinted soul and colored by organ and steel guitar, and the arrangements are spare and airy—especially on the lament “Ballad of Sharon Tate.” But overall, Felice’s debut feels just a bit incomplete. Team-Love.com