Roberta Faceplant Brings the Honky-Tonk to Philly with 3 New Singles
In the early weeks of 2020, Katie Feeney did a photo shoot for her band You Do You with Philadelphia photographer/auteur Bob Sweeney. They selected the finest location South Philadelphia has to offer: the dumpsters behind the Shop Rite at Snyder Plaza. It was all material for the press schedule for the band’s upcoming tour and LP, Funky Dinos. By mid-March of that year, nothing was going to happen the way she had planned. But she still had the photos from that day. Talking to Feeney on 25 O’Clock in late April of 2020, she told me: “The picture originally had all these dates on one side and all these places we were gonna go, and I took it all away and just posted the picture. ‘Well, here’s me in a dumpster.’”
Originally birthed as a side project so she could open for New Orleans singer-songwriter Maggie Koerner, Roberta Faceplant decided to stick around after that one night. One of the original tunes she wrote for that show was called “Everything Is Trash,” which she released in 2021 to great acclaim in the country and folk world. Finally, she could use those dumpster pictures.
It’s only two months into 2023, and Roberta Faceplant has put out three singles (two originals and one cover). Her latest is a honky-tonk romp called “Keep Talkin’” – a fiery number that tells the classic story of wanting to break it off with someone, but you keep getting pulled back in. It features a killer clarinet solo by Gabe Preston, who splits his time amongst many Philadelphia groups including Stella Ruze and You Do You, as well as a scorching Texas barroom guitar solo from Drew Parker, Feeney’s partner and collaborator.
She’s also released a cover of the Tom Petty deep cut, “Two Gunslingers” (originally on his Into The Great Wide Open album). The band slows it down a bit, adding an organ for a soulful vibe. Originally released by Petty as a response to the Gulf War in 1991, Roberta Faceplant’s version shows us that while time goes on, we’re still grappling with the same issues. “I’m taking control of my life” plays just as heavily as it did over 30 years ago. Covers are always a tricky business, and recording them even more so. Feeney and Parker pull this off well, making it their own while still honoring the original spirit of the Petty original.
The third single Roberta Faceplant released this year is a mournful tune called “Sunbeams”, which was inspired by a poem Feeney wrote when she was only 14. Written to help her family who were all reeling from the passing of her grandfather, Feeney resurrected the poem for “Sunbeams” to honor her late cousin, Sean Webb, who died at the age of 24 in 2021. The poem was written to help Sean’s sister when they were younger, and found a second life to soothe the same people as a song. The chorus adapts the original poem: “Basked in a stream of sunbeams behind him / Wearing his favorite attire.” Feeney starts the song low and somber, opening up her voice as it climbs to its peak. It becomes a mournful wail and a call to gather and unite in the most common of human experiences: loss. It’s a tribute that any and all of us would relate to.
Roberta Faceplant pulls from the whole palette of country music. There’s the tongue-in-cheek boisterousness of Dolly Parton, the soul of Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris, and the modern joinings with folk and rock of Kacey Musgraves. The spirit of all of these singles, and of the project as a whole, is to bring it all onto the stage as a celebration of the music she loves and the energy that she’s brought to live performances for years.