Now in the throes of the Americana music revolution, there are a glut of bands making the same stripped-down, down-home sound. With any musical movement that is generating revenue, the market gets flooded with opportunistic bands trying to ride the high cresting wave and make a living as artists. (For the record, I begrudge no one for going that route. Making a livable wage through music is harder than Obama trying to pass a bill through Congress. Do what you gotta do.)
With that stated, however, the current Americana music-scape is a bit bland. Everything sounds the same. No one really sticks out. Maybe without the bubble of folk-driven music, bands like The Lumineers would have more of an impact on my ears. But they just don’t. Here’s why: I don’t hear a lot of chances being taken on their records or in live performances.
Now I’ll get to why the Felice Brothers are one of the most important bands on the Americana scene. They take chances. On their new record, Celebration, Florida, they are willing to be strange. They get messy and in making their mess, the listener hears something new every time they spin the record. And that goes for all their records.
Live they’re just as dangerous. I caught their set at Portland’s State Theater last week, and they performed like men on fire. It’s not that they eschew catchy hooks or that they purposefully make their music discordant. What their doing is making artistic, thoughtful choices to push the boundaries of the music they’re playing. They do it in a this-is-what-we-do-and-we-hope-you-like-it-but-if-you-don’t-that’s-fine manner. And thank God they do.
They’ve been at this long enough and earned enough cred, that if they wanted to go Mumford and Sons big, I imagine someone would give them the chance. They could make a safe radio-friendly album, and they’d most likely blow up. But that doesn’t seem to interest them. And in my book, that’s what makes them artists. They are doing this their way. It’s inspiring.
Artists push the boundaries of the medium they exist in. Real innovators try to blow up conventions. Decimate expectations. If that’s something you’re interested in, listen to The Felice Brothers.