Arlan Feiles And The Broken Hearted – Live From The Strand Theater, Lakewood, NJ
Arlan Feiles has steadily built his following and sound over the past several years. Arlan Feiles is an award-winning singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and music producer. Discovered and mentored by the late great Rock and Roll Hall of Fame record producer Tom Dowd, Arlan has gone on to record several highly-acclaimed records and has his music heard on many TV programs and movies, including the Academy Award-winning film the Dallas Buyers Club. Arlan is equally known for his efforts supporting voting and civil rights.
Feiles’ interest in activist-related support is well-documented. His song “Viola” is both poignant and emotionally breathtaking. The sadness of her death is overtaken by the beauty of her bravery. Feiles spares no expense in the uplifting glorification of a simple, white housewife who helped changed the world with her selfless act of compassion and heroism.
To help mark the remembrance of Viola, Arlan undertook a trip to Selma, Alabama, to perform in Montgomery, Alabama, at the screening of Home Of The Brave, the Viola Liuzzo story, on March 6, 2015. His journey then took him to a memorial that took place at the marker off Route 80 between Selma and Montgomery at the spot where Viola was killed. He also marched with the Liuzzo children in a reenactment of the march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 8, 2015.
But Arlan also takes his musical direction to task on a regular basis. His latest undertaking is a live album (Arlan Feiles And The Broken Hearted – Live From The Strand) and a brand new studio project titled Stranger. Stranger is to be released on December 16 and will be available on his website as of that date.
He has also scored two songs in the upcoming Bruce Willis movie, Once Upon A Time In Venice. The first is titled “Love You Like The First Time” and is sung by Feiles himself. His backup singer for that is none other than Lindsey DeSena from Shady Street Band. The second tune is titled “The First Time I Saw You” and is sung by the talented Layonne Holmes. That song will also serve as Layonne’s first single for her own upcoming recording project.
But for now, I want to get back to the live recording from The Strand Theater. Feiles has always surrounded himself with outstanding musicians, and this time is no exception. His live project includes Jack Petruzzelli, Bess Rogers, Layonne Holmes, Eryn Shewell, Dan B. Green, and Michael Scotto. McMuffin engineered the live show. And Arlan mixed and mastered the record.
First song up is called “Drifted Town.” After a quick introduction from 90.5’s Jeff Raspe, Arlan kicks into an acoustic intro. The sound is pristine, and the separation of acoustic guitar and vocal is perfect. Arlan’s vocal style is from the days of yore, melding the phrasing of Bob Dylan and John Prine with the melodic delivery of James Taylor. Seasoned and toned for days, Feiles waxes poetic of his philosophy of life.
The fantastic Bess Rogers joins Arlan on stage next on “Change.” The two harmonize perfectly as if they’ve been singing together for years. Feiles does his time-changing thing well, mixing the anticipation of finding a girl like this with the explanation of events and situations that lead up to the emotional point in the song. Acoustic guitar is full and bell-clear as Feiles simmers and whispers into the end.
Up next, Feiles invites the entire band up to get things cooking. If you love Jackson Browne or Warren Zevon, you’re going to like “Weeds Kill The Wildflowers.” Slide guitars mix with bass, drums, and pianos as backing vocals bring Feiles into focus. Arlan does well with his lyrical expressionism here as well. His use of symbolism comes to the forefront as he uses the garden as a metaphor for life’s issues. Feiles’ style of composition stands tall and this song is a great American example of that statement.
“Wake” is a song about doing things your way. Arlan tells the crowd, “This next song is a song about not taking shit from anybody. Standing your ground and feeling your presence and being empowered. I wrote this song for the Dallas Buyer Club film.” Pianos trill into the intro as Feiles sings his piece before the band joins in. Percussion ratchets in the background as backing vocals chime in alongside Feiles, drawing the song up into the next level. A slow building creation, Feiles knows his craft well. He brings things up, brings them down, changes the vibe and boosts backing vocals to lead vocal status. Drums never quite kick into the song, but it works like gangbusters.
“50 Miles” is next and swings into the speakers with good ole’ upstate New York back porch grandeur. Acoustic guitars blend with pianos, harmonica and bass (courtesy of Dan Green) and drums (Michael Scotto) as Feiles sings his take about finding a better way back home. Background vocals come courtesy of Bess Rogers, Layonne Holmes, and Eryn Shewell and I now understand why these songs sound so damn delicious. The band has a relaxed, bouncy feel that reminds me of Levon Helm’s act out at the Ramble. Tight but laid far back.
“Hangin’ Mr. Johnson” is next. The band builds slowly, metering out frenetic lines of slide guitar as Feiles pumps the keyboard and starts his lyrical attack. This song seems to be based on an old style of bluesy, western folk with a touch of 1940s jazz flair. Bass and drums pulse with pocketed rhythm and feel as guitars side wind along the backbone of the song. Feiles takes the middle-eight along with the electric guitar virtuosity of Jack Petruzzelli. The song slinks along, building with the background vocal magic of Holmes, Shewell, and Rogers as Feiles tells the tale of poor old Mr. Johnson. Excellent performance of a fantastic song.
Moving around the disc, I came to “Ghost Of Our Lovers.” Once again, Feiles unwinds with a western feel. Instrumentation unfurls slowly, adding just enough to support the vocal goodness of Feiles and the girls. Eryn Shewell takes the lead vocal chores on verse number two. Eryn has always been one of my favorite singers, and she doesn’t disappoint here. Her full and throaty vocal attack is focused and ethereal in turn. She harmonizes along with Feiles with critical skill, gracefully moving like a dancer in a ballet. Percussive accouterments on the live disc come courtesy of Michael Scotto, and Bess Rogers also handles acoustic guitars live as well.
“My Sweet Rose” flies off of the stage next. Pianos intro the song as Feiles sings his ode to love that disappears. Once again, Eryn takes a verse before joining Feiles in the bridge and chorus. Petruzzelli throws out truck stop slide guitar like nobody’s business before pianos take over once more. If you like Marc Cohn, you’ll love this song. Subdued and filled with substance, “My Sweet Rose” is a beautiful song performed with love.
Up next is a Feiles favorite. “Katie Truly” sizzles like something from Eric Burden and War. Powered by mysterious rhythmic voodoo, Feiles and crew rip their way through this strange and beautiful gem like a fast-rising storm. Petruzzelli’s guitar work is completely unhinged at times and adds another important element of strange goodness to the mix.
“Come Sunday Morning,” off of Feiles’ 2008 album of the same name takes center stage next. This has always been one of my favorite songs, and Feiles and crew approach it a bit differently here, utilizing a different rhythm sound and vocal approach. Feiles goes out of his way to manipulate this tune in new and exciting direction. Vocals start things off with piano. Arlan swings into his vaudevillian achievement with the girls before the rhythm section kicks in. Rumbling bass and drums boil under vocal swatches as keyboards sparkle over the top. It’s almost a Caribbean feel as they glide to the inevitable conclusion.
There are several other great songs on this live offering that we don’t have space for but songs such as “Viola,” the song about Viola Liuzzo and the sacrifice that she made, as well as tracks such as “Morning Song,” “With You All The Way,” and “A Song For You” all ring true in the live performance setting. This record is a great release and one of the very few live recordings that stand on its own. Feiles has done well with superb performances and terrific creative heart.
If you enjoy music done in the ways of the old musical masters of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, you owe it to yourself to take a bite out of this live disc. It’s a real treat.
Arlan will be back on this page shortly as we explore his studio undertakings with Stranger and the movie soundtrack songs that he has completed for the Bruce Willis film.
For more information on Arlan Feiles And The Broken Hearted, as well as his latest studio project, head over to arlanfeilesmusic.com.