There are may things that go through a mediocre slump in the middle: a work day, a road trip, and the Felice Brother’s fifth album, Favorite Waitress. The Catskill Mountains-based folk- and country-rock, Americana band clearly do some things well: Favorite Waitress starts and ends strong, but the middle is a little lackluster. The quintet (which does indeed include two brothers by the name of Felice) can craft a relaxed country tune, and they can build drama and create something more epic, too (listen to “Alien” or “Silver in the Shadows” for great examples.) The lead singer, Ian Felice, also does a spot-on (and likely unintentional) Bob Dylan voice. What the band isn’t so good at is experimenting with punk or borrowing lyrics from nursery rhymes.
The album starts on a high note with “Bird on Broken Wing.” The slow, relaxed send off to a friend is a great combination of folk, country-rock, and Americana. Sure, the song doesn’t need the sound of dogs barking in it, but the rest of the over five-minute song is wonderful. There’s a banjo, an accordion, a fiddle – basically, everything you could possibly expect and want from a folksy, country-rock album from a couple of brothers from the mountains. The singer’s nasally voice is so reminiscent of Bob Dylan that it could be distracting, but it works so well with the song that you can’t question it. From there, the album moves into “Lion,” which sounds kind of like what would happen if Mumford & Sons was fronted by Bob Dylan and rounded out by an accordion player from Louisiana. Then we get “Alien,” a slow start that builds into an epic. There’s a little bump with the underwhelming “Meadow of a Dream” (see below,) then things get good again. “Saturday Night Alone” starts off a little weird with just a triangle and a synthesizer, but turns into something you could compare with the Pixies. It’s a strong start to the album and suggests more great things to come.
Unfortunately, the next few songs don’t live up to the standard set by the early tracks. Maybe it’s not so much that they don’t live up to the standard, but that they don’t really fit with the feelings brought about with the first few songs. “Meadow of a Dream” is repetitive. “Katie Cruel” doesn’t fit in with the relaxed feel of the rest of the album as it’s an attempt at punk, it sticks out like a sore thumb. “Constituents” has a funeral-style organ with an awkward arrangement. Fortunately, the organ fades out so that we can begin to enjoy the rest of the song. “Hawthorne” gets weird when the chorus repeats questions to the sheep of nursery rhyme fame, like “Baa baa black sheep, have you any wine? Baa baa black sheep, have you any of mine?” But fear not, the lull of these ill-fitting songs only lasts through the middle of the album.
Luckily, things pick up again toward the end of the album. Though not all of the songs fit into the same theme as the first few, they are each strong enough to work and stand on their own. “No Trouble” is a soft country song with simple guitar and piano used to great effect. This track brings back the early theme of relaxed folk, country-rock. “Cherry Licorice,” the album’s lead single, is actually an ode to a favorite candy (no false advertising here!) It’s a catchy tune with tons of cymbal, some accordion, and some howling thrown in for good measure. “Chinatown” is a little dark and notably un-country. The loon-like sound is haunting and the backing vocals work perfectly, it’s one of the few songs where the comparison to Dylan isn’t so noticeable. While it has little in common with the rest of the album, it works. “Woman Next Door” is a romp that sounds like classic ’70s rock complete with piano, organ, and more cymbals. “Silver in the Shadows” is sung by someone other than the Dylan-esque Ian Felice. What starts as a simple song soon becomes epic with booming percussion and pounding piano, and an electric guitar. The singer gives his all.
Though not every song is on the same level, there are some good tracks on here. Take a listen to “Bird on Broken Wing” below for a feel of the relaxed, rustic sound for which The Felice Brothers have great skill. Now if they just stick to their epic country folk and leave out attempts at punk, everything will be well.