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Simone Felice: The Solemn Sound Of A Brush With Death

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Simone (pronounced "Simon") Felice is a poet, a novelist and a musician from rural New York state who has lived through two near-death experiences. At 12, he suffered a brain aneurysm, and in June 2010, he underwent emergency open-heart surgery. He jokes, "I guess I came out of the factory a little defective."

For years, Felice teamed with his siblings James and Ian in the band The Felice Brothers. Later, he formed the group The Duke & the King. Now, he's on his own with the release this month of his self-titled solo album. It's full of music that at first seems simple, yet packs an emotional wallop — like the closing track "Splendor in the Grass," on which listeners can hear the tick of a mechanical heart valve, installed in Felice's chest during his surgery.

"On the recordings — I recorded most of them in my barn in the Catskills — I could not for the life of me get the tick out of the recording," Felice says. "I had to put three or four sweaters on, and a ski jacket, and you can still hear it. So we turned up the volume, and at the end of the album, you can hear the heart tick for about 20 seconds."

Felice wrote most of the songs on Simone Felice while recovering from the procedure. Three weeks into his convalescence, his first daughter was born.

"I was just strong enough to hold her and pick her up. Now, I live for her," he says. "So this is the soundtrack of my deliverance."

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