Sweet Felony- Split Ends Mend

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2013

San Francisco’s Sweet Felony is a country rock band led by guitarist/vocalists Christa DiBiase and Amanda Guilbeaux, both of whom have been regular fixtures in the music scene out there. Though they’ve only been around for a little while, the group just recently put out their debut mini-album Split Ends Mend. It’s an effort that mixes some up-tempo country rock with softer arrangements that pull in some additional influences. There are definitely some moments that will grab listeners, but as a whole it feels like Sweet Felony is just starting to touch upon their own unique quirks and have a bit more growing to do.

Split Ends Mend begins with the most rock oriented numbers, going for a faster tempo and guitar melodies that have a bit of a country twang to them. What jumped out at me from the beginning was the band’s stripped down approach, and that was definitely a positive element as I tend to like this rawer, live sound for bands that go for alt-country and country rock. After the faster grooves of the first two tracks, Sweet Felony scales back a bit and goes in a much mellower direction. “Love On” has a more traditional country feel, with a very audible bass line driving the song forward, and “Just Friends” even adds in some Latin influences. Each of the group’s seven tracks seems to be offering something just a bit different, and it was great to see that the instrumentalists were trying to touch upon this type of variation and not just stick with a formula. At the same time though, some of Split Ends Mend seemed to just be touching upon some of these additional styles and could go further with them. Additionally, on some of the faster country rock oriented pieces the guitar solos seemed at odds with the rest of the instrumentals tempo wise and came off feeling just a bit awkward. None of these issues prevents the material from being enjoyable, but it does keep it from being a true highlight of the style.

Christa DiBiase and Amanda Guilbeaux serve as lead vocalists and they each have slightly different pitches that complement the other, resulting in some strong harmonies throughout Split Ends Mend. While these two alone could have held the material up by themselves they also got guitarist Mike Ingram and bassist Carl Horne to contribute some backup singing on some of the tracks which adds some additional depth to the arrangements. I really enjoyed the interplay between the two lead vocalists though, as the way they switched off from one line to the next before joining together for chorus lines really grabbed me right from the beginning. This is one element of Sweet Felony’s music that should help to give them a continued advantage as they progress, so hopefully they’re able to keep making the most of it.

Sweet Felony is a band that I like, but I don’t absolutely love them yet. The stripped down country rock and other styles that they play are enjoyable, but there’s an occasional bit of wonkiness to the instrumentals and it does seem like the band could further expand on some of the additional influences that pop up throughout Split Ends Mend. It’s clear that the individuals that make up this group are talented, and I get the impression that as they have more time to collaborate as a full band their ideas will become more fully realized and stronger than before. The press bio mentions that another album is already planned for the end of the year, so hopefully this is exactly what will happen in the near future.


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