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Come Hell or High Water

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BROTHERS TO THE END: The Felice Brothers play washboards and acoustic rhythms with an underscore of macabre appeal. Courtesy photo.

It’s not uncommon for siblings to get together for their endeavors—two heads are better than one, right? Usually, there’s a niche each have and they bring their collective talents and determination together for success. However, what if both have the determination … but not necessarily the talent?

The Felice Brothers started with brothers (as the name promises) Ian and James, accompanied by longtime high-school buddies Christmas (yes, Christmas), Greg Farley and David Turbeville. The twentysomethings decided they wanted to start a band and realized not one of them knew how to play an instrument. In an effort to solve this problem, Ian picked up a guitar while his brother doubled his workload with an accordion and piano. As Christmas (bass), Farley (violin) and Turbeville (drums) banged out some tunes with the brothers, they ended up having a little bit of fun—and, better yet, a lot of success—through the often frustrating process.

Eventually, the band’s adventitious talent sprouted and grew from love of and need to play music—included with a lot of luck, says James Felice, who broke from a knock-around rehearsal last week to speak with encore.

“We always loved music [but] had no direction and didn’t know what were going to do,” James explains. “I think that’s the case with a lot of musicians.”

Since the group’s inceptionin 2006, The Felice Brothers have released multiple albums—some even recorded in a converted chicken coop in upstate New York near their hometown of Palenville. Countless magazines have praised them, from Esquire to Filter, The New York Times to SPIN, among others.

“I think we’re just good and that’s basically it,” James determines of such quick success. “We’ve caught breaks but, at the end of the day, we’re doing a good job.”

Their 2009 album “Yonder Is the Clock” from Team Love Records certainly reflects a down-home, unassuming sound with songs like “Run Chicken Run” and “Penn Station” emitting just a hint of grit. However, SPIN describes their 2011 release “Celebration, Florida” “like a series of character sketches drawn behind the scenes at a decrepit carnival, set to after-hours folk blues as raw and unhinged as the subject matter.” It certainly proves to be much darker, with almost frightening collections of stories told from all walks of music, something to “captivate and mystify” listeners.

Moving out of the hen house, “Celebration” was recorded in an old high school gymnasium and theater. Here, the band explored a multitude of sounds, which resulted in a more solid record.

The albums before were kind of slapped together,” James explains. “[‘Celebration, Florida’] is definitely my favorite so far because of the cohesiveness.”

Known for their live shows, The Felice Brothers seemed to be an obvious pick for this weekend’s Winoca lineup becuase of their underlying allure of folk-rock stories. Their commitment to performance and fans makes them a hot item for venues, proving nothing will hold them back from taking the stage. Case in point: At the 2008 Newport Folk Festival they shimmied in the pouring rain, barefoot in mud, after a lightning bolt shorted the stage’s power supply. Such are the woes of touring, even amidst the excitement and exhaustion inevitably following.

“My favorite part of [being in the band] is traveling—something I hadn’t gotten to do my whole life,” James admits. “[However], traveling prevents me from being a part of a community the way I’d like to be.”

Clearly, come hell or high water, The Felice Brothers will travel into the open arms of Wilmington to play at WinocaFest this Saturday. Tickets are on sale now for $35 at or Gravity Records (cash only). They can also be purchased the day of for $40. Gates open at noon and the music don’t stop ‘til 11 p.m.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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