Let me start by saying that I have thought long and hard about posting Albums Of 2014 so early in the year - but I know what I like and I like what I know (that sounds vaguely familiar in a Prog sort of way) - so for Albums that I know are going to make the list, well why not get them in early to give everyone an opportunity to seek out and get a few months more enjoyment if they feel so inclined as to invest
Simone Felice made his name as part of the band The Felice Brothers.
He left the band in 2009 to form his own band The Duke & The King (which are both worth investigating).
Then in 2012 - Simone released his self titled debut album. The fact Simone is also a published author may come as no surprise when you look at how the quality of the lyrics and are highlighted even more by some of the simple instrumentation and sympathetic production which are featured on his debut.
His second solo release, this year's Strangers builds on his debut and has become one of my favourite albums of the year. The lead off single (are they still called singles?) ok, let's say song, was the uplifting Molly O. It reminds me somewhat of Bob Dylan, on a happy day, but Simone can actually sing! - 'Good trips and bad trips, we can still hold our lips to the chalice'
Simone's vocals are delicate and gentle and suggest a certain fragility and sensitivity which comes across beautifully in the track If You Go To LA with its sweeping string, acoustic guitar and banjo accompaniment.
Running Through My Head is a lovely piano ballad with an insistent drumbeat and female vocals and build up with sweeping strings and organ like a slightly twisted gospel song.
photo courtesy of John Huba
A lone acoustic guitar starts of Our Lady Of The Gun which has an accompaniment of handclaps, layered voices, piano and strings, which form a percussive beat throughout.
The plaintive Bye Bye Palenville starts off with organ and builds into a gorgeous piano led ballad which is almost gospel and is a song which Elton would have killed for.
Photo courtesy of Uncut
Next up is the song Gettysberg which chugs along nicely with its simple acoustic backing and handclap percussion backing.
The Best That Money Can Buy recalls Paul Simon at his 60s best with Simone's quavering vocal, acoustic guitar and cello background with a lone violin and what sounds like a vibraphone and trumpet providing the colour to this relatively simple song. 'In this kingdom of slaves and radio waves where nobody ever cries'.
photo courtesy of Uncut
Heartland starts off with distorted piano and builds with electric guitar and strings - like a Daniel Lanois production on one of his own albums. It is definitely the most atmospheric track on an album of atmosphere.
An interesting feature of the album are the unusual rhythm patterns on some of the songs which may come from the fact that Simone is also a drummer.
photo courtesy of americansonwriter
Bastille Day is another piano led ballad with minimal glockenspiel and voices to add the colour to the track before it builds at the end into a multitude of voices, organ and drums.
The album ends with the moving, hymnic, Gallows which is a song based around acoustic guitar, beautiful harmonies and sweeping strings.
Strangers is up there with the best of Jackson Browne, James Taylor and all of the 60s & 70s classic singer/songwriter albums.
WIDESCREEN FILMIC AMERICANA AT IT'S VERY BEST.
And it sounds totally fantastic on VINYL.
I urge you to investigate further.
photo courtesy of Leeds Music Forum
Twitter - @SimoneFelice