I’m alive.Got my breast-bone sawed in two and my lungs collapsed and the main valve of my heart replaced by a carbon device that ticks like a pocket watch to the beat of my blood for the rest of my days, but I’m alive. Strange days indeed.What a wild thing to learn from the doctor: that for years you’ve been existing off 1/8th of the blood and oxygen your body and brain need, that he’s baffled your still alive, that you would’ve surely died within the next year. Before I could say ‘It’s the day of the big surprise’ I was under the knife. I want everybody who prayed for me or sent me their warm thoughts, to know that your goodness did not fall on deaf ears, I’m convinced that in some way I must have received every last one, and that all the love I’ve been shown in this hard time has indeed helped me make it through and to heal up so well and quickly.
And so wrote Mr Simone Felice a month or so ago. We’re just glad he’s still around. Felice is many things, guitarist, drummer, amazingly talented songwriter, author, poet and now it appears, indestructible. At the age of 12 the young Simone suffered a brain aneurysm and was pronounced clinically dead following brain surgery in a local hospital. After recovering he spent several months in intensive care relearning basic motor skills, including reading and writing.
See? The man is unbreakable. His immortality is only part of the story, the rest is as follows. After dying, Simone formed a punk band and by 18 had dropped out of school. He played in another band too but eventually the young rockers went their separate ways and Felice began writing poetry and vignettes, leading to the publication of his first collection of poems, The Picture Show,when he was 20 years old. He began performing these bizarre monologues regularly at the historic Nuyorican Poets Café in New York, garnering the young poet invitations to come read in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, London and Berlin.
In 2004 and then 2005, underground New York publishers printed Simone’s first short works of fiction, Goodbye Amelia, a coming of age story about a small-town girl with secrets to keep and a hunger to see the world, and Hail Mary Full of Holes, about a prostitute struggling to survive during the dawn of the Reagan era.
In the Fall of 2001, just after the attacks on New York City, Simone began writing songs with his brother Ian. Together they retreated to the woods they grew up in,where jobless with a cheap guitar they wrote and made recordings (two recently unearthed archive collections know as The Big Empty and Mexico) with their friend Doc Brown. In this manner the two brothers clocked four years in complete obscurity, sewing the seeds of what would become (with the edition of younger brother James in the Winter of 2006) The Felice Brothers,whose subsequent albums Tonight at the Arizona, The Felice Brothers, and Yonder is the Clock, have gone on to achieve international renown, earning these upstate New York natives an inarguable place in the Great American Songbook.
Over the group’s history Simone has remained one of it’s chief lyricists, co-writing and writing some their most beloved songs, including Frankie’s Gun, Run Chicken Run, Ruby Mae,Whiskey in My Whiskey, Love Me Tenderly,Hey Hey Revolver,Mercy, Your Belly In My Arms, The Devil Is Real, Radio Song and Don’t Wake The Scarecrow to name just a few.
At the surprise request of iconic record producer Rick Rubin, Simone flew to California in the late summer of 2008 to play drums on the Columbia release I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers. Lending his signature dirty Catskill Mountain soul to the Avett’s riveting songwriting and Rubin’s flawless production, Felice appears on some of the albums stand-out numbers, including the title-track and popular single I and Love and You.
In the winter of 2008/2009 personal tragedy reared its head when Simone and his long-time love lost their first child in a late-term still-birth. It was then that he retreated to a cabin in his beloved Catskill’s with his old friend Bobbie Bird and began writing and recording the songs that would (unknown to them at the
time) become The Duke & The King’s debut album. Taking their name from the itinerant Shakespeare theatre grifters in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the duo released the gripping Nothing Gold Can Stay in the Summer of 2009 to immediate international critical acclaim, being hailed as one of the most haunting and honest albums of the year.
Felice has just completed his first novel, Black Jesus, the story of a young American war veteran returned to his hometown, the fictional Galilee, New York, after being blinded in Iraq by a homemade bomb, and the
unexpected love he finds with a mysterious dancer who arrives in the town, fleeing darkness and violence
of a different kind.
Simone lives less than a mile from the creek-house he was born in, and travels his own country and abroad performing his songs and stories.
Here’s a clip pf him covering Tom Waits’ Ol’ 55 at Buffalo Bar in Cardiff.
Available to buy
Available to buy
180g Single LP.
6th February 2012