Customer Review

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The High-Arts Country, 11 Sep 2011
This review is from: The High Country (Audio CD)
Over the last five years Willy Vlautin (singer/songwriter in this veteran alt.country act) has released three exceptional novels. After (or because) of his success in this field, Vlautin & his band seem to have taken their already highly novel-esque approach to songwriting to even greater standards. Imagine if you will an Elmore Leonard novel set to music and your somewhere close.

Stories of murder, illicit romance & drug abuse all feature throughout the album and the piece as a whole works along the lines of a concept album, with each track moving the story along from is rather mundane beginings towards it's bloody conclusion. The story itself tells of a married mechanic by the name of Claude Murray who falls hard for an equally bethroned girl (who remains nameless throughout), their illicit love is the backdrop for the escalating violence that enventually engulfs the record in a sea of blood. Charachters such as Angus King & the girl's one-legged husband (the kid) flesh out the tale, incrementlly adding some back-story until their parts slowly build to become a key component in the whole tapestry of the story.

Is this story important to the record as a whole?. Well, yes and no. In a narrative sense the story really adds a pulsing intensity to the piece. If your reading the lyric sheet as you listen to the LP, then you can gain a sense of relativity towards Claude's situation and begin to despair at the actions he decides to take. But if you were to ignore the story and just listen to the record as you would any other, then it would'nt incur any loss of enjoyment. In fact, if you did decide to ignore the story then you could at least skip the dreadful 'acting' sequencess that plauge the record. Tracks 9 & 11 offer cringe-inducing voice inteludes, these are by far the weakest element of the album and go some way to un-hinging the entire project. By putting a voice to Claude Murray it really breaks the illusion and should hopefully be a lesson learned if the band continue down this narrative-lead path.

What of the songs?, I hear you ask. Well, if your a fan of any of the band's previous work then you should find much to enjoy here. Slow, spacey ballads give way to rollicking, high-drama numbers. The album seems to take a while to build, with many songs passing without much incident. But the slow and patient build-up reaches a real zenith by the time you reach track 11 ('Lost In The Trees') when the LP suddenly bursts into life. Each of the final 6 songs bring something new to the table and could easily be the band's best work since the classic 'Post To Wire' in 2004.

Overall this is a fine release. If the acting sequences go some way to hampering the work as a whole, then repeated plays reveal more and more delights that make those discrepancies all the more easy to forgive. Recommended.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Sep 2011 18:31:46 BDT
Unfortunately I cannot understand what you mean in a couple of places,.

1 - at the end of paragrahy 1 you write...."and your somewhere else." What is my somewhere else?

2 - at the start of paragraph 4, you refer to...."if your a fan......" Well, I have looked everywhere but can't find my 'a fan' anywhere.

Bizarre stuff.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Sep 2011 19:22:06 BDT
Am I missing a joke somewhere, if so I apologise in advance (and maybe I'm starting to show my age).

Otherwise:

1. - I didn't say 'somewhere else' I said 'somewhere close'.

2 - Either you don't uderstand english expressions very well or that was a poor attempt at comedy.

I don't mean to come across as some sort of touchy reviewer who can't take a little criticism (or a joke) but I honestly could'nt understand whether you were being serious or not. Surely that was not your intention?.

Bizarre stuff indeed.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2011 20:00:36 BDT
Red on Black says:
Well done Mr Chinaski an excellent review of an excellent album - Regards

Posted on 8 Oct 2011 18:17:51 BDT
Twig says:
Saw them live last week. The set was in two halves. The first was The High Country in its entirety. It was good, but the weakness of a concept album became apparent, some songs seeming like fillers to get you from a to b in the narrative. After a short break, they came back on stage to do a whole bunch of songs from Post to Wire. And were they good!

I love Willy Vlautin's novels. I love Richmond Fontaine's earlier albums. This latest, though, seems an odd and slightly less successful hybrid. That said, I give it 4 stars as well!

Best,

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Dec 2012 17:18:53 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Dec 2012 17:20:15 GMT
Bill says:
I think what Robert Clayton is saying is that you've twice typed "your" when you mean "you're". But then as he's mistakenly typed "paragrahy" he's not really in any position to criticise.
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