The Felice Brothers’ sixth full-length manages to tap into a vein of folksy/country rock that is at once self-assured and humble. The band couples wry, boozy humor with folk’s traditional “rambling” themes to make an instantly likeable, often poignant sound. You can hear echos of Dylan’s “sand and glue” in the vocals, and the music follows in a typical rustic style. But Favorite Waitress sets itself apart with an unmistakable love of life. The Felice Brothers’ tone is somehow perpetually content, even on tracks where the sun has surely set. For instance, The Woman Next Door opens with an atonal, jarring electric riff in a minor key, and yet somehow manages to flow seamlessly into a heavy, energetic song about longing, destiny and asking silly questions just to see what the answers will be. The record reacts to loneliness or injustice with the same lopsided grin always on its face, as if all the while it’s thinking of pretty women and eating cherry licorice.
There’s a line in Meadow Of A Dream: “I did my dishes/And threw ‘em out the window.” Everything about Favorite Waitress is either leading up to or coming away from that simple observation. This album is trapped in a world full of empty, pointless gestures, and the only adequate response is to shrug your shoulders, break something valuable and move on. It turns out even that titular waitress is gone in Chinatown. Every sound—from the dog barking on the intro of Bird On A Broken Wing to the crashing guitar solo trailing off into tinkling piano on Silver In The Shadow—is part of a journey with no destination, but that only makes it more lovely and meaningful. When stumbling onto that dishes line and recalling the calm, unassuming, and gracious presence these guys exude onstage, it all suddenly makes perfect sense. Which is fitting, because that’s basically the way that this whole album hits you.
This is a jubilant, pleasant record that becomes revelatory where you least expect it, like in some of the seemingly silly asides. Such is the case on the third track, Lion, an infectious folk ballad told from a zoo animal’s perspective. Or Cherry Licorice which will have you rethinking everything when Josh Rawson points out that, “Even the birds and bees/eat what they damn well please.” But what’s best of all is that, for all its simple brilliance, Favorite Waitress never takes itself too seriously. It’s a cracked, smart and surprisingly powerful album, you just have to listen a bit closer than usual to hear what it’s trying to say.