After somewhat getting lost up in the woods in the High Country, Willy Vlautin has returned with a masterpiece, 10 exquisite tracks plus a Randy Newman number thrown in for good measure. Willy’s tales always seem to be from the darker side of the street, but with Colfax Avenue being the longest street in the USA, there’s room for expansion here with this superb band of musicians. The result is an album with a more relaxed & lighter feel with some real highlights, which should appeal to a wider audience rather than just the RF faithful. Amy Boone brings a real heartfelt poignancy to the songs, there’s ethereal pedal steel throughout & superb keyboards particularly on stand out tracks “State Line”; “I got My Shadows” & “I won’t slip up” which capture the mood perfectly. Some of Willy’s best work to date and most definitely album of the year... so far!
I was pushed into reading Willy Vlautin by comments made by George Pelecanos on a book programme. I loved what I read (and I recommend the books highly). From his novels a logical step to Richmond Fontaine and again there is an artistry, a story telling and genuine feeling in their music. And now The Delines, where WV and his colleagues weave a new magic. Beautiful songs well sung by Amy Boone and carefully set in a country background. But this is more than country again it is Willy telling stories some of them achingly painful (Flight 31/the Oil Rigs at Night/He told her the City was Killing Him). As always this is a different America - darker,pained and painful. There is no froth, no consumerism and no TV view of an always successful society. I am in awe of your varied talents. More please.
When Willie Vlautin, of Richmond Fontaine, heard the heartbreak voice of Amy Boone he was inspired to write the songs that became Colfax, the album.
The Delines is an alt country supergroup featuring not only Boone (The Damnations) and Vlautin but Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists) on keyboards, Tucker Jackson (Minus 5) on pedal steel and Fontaine percussionist and drummer, Sean Oldham.
As ever, Vlautin's songs explore the frailties of the human condition. The narrative power of his lyrics and his haunting melodies are caught alive by Boone's divine contralto and Vlautin's sublime acoustic band led by Jackson's ethereal steel.
The title track is a powerful piece about a woman's search for her disturbed war veteran brother and delivered with a beguiling sensitivity reminiscent of Lucinda Williams while Sandman's Coming" is a gorgeous piano led evocation of despair sung as a jazz tinged lullaby.
From the imploring "Wichita Ain't So Far Away", to the sense of loneliness conveyed by "The Oil Rigs At Night" and the vulnerable angst of "I Won't Slip Up" this is an album that invests the intimacy of heartbreak, isolation, sorrow and despair with a poignant beauty.
Willy Vlautin is simply an inspiration to anyone who believes in achieving their dreams - for Willy it is writing heartfelt stories that are filled with warmth and compassion of everyday people. Playing music in one of the greatest bands on earth Richmond Fontaine (which get better and better with age). Success has come in his 40's and he deserves it all. Colfax is just another example of his talent a superb album of beauty. Willy Vlautin has been championed by Uncut magazine and rightly so, everyone else is taking a long time to catch up. He has the right now to be spoken about in the same breath as Tom Waits, Springsteen (Nebraska era), and the artists that inspired him - The Blasters, X, Bottle rockets, Uncle Tupelo, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash etc.. Everything he has released music or book is pure quality and a very humble friendly guy as well - buy it all you will not be disappointed.
OK, so it's a cardinal sin to begin by mentioning Richmond Fontaine, but I am a longstanding fan so I was keen to see what Willy Vlautin was going to do with this new group. The first time I listened to the album I felt strangely disappointed. I absolutely loved Amy Boone's voice but the songs sounded simplistic and a bit samey. How wrong I was. A few more listens and hearing them do the the album live and I was completely hooked. Now I feel that it is the simplicity of the lyrics that make the songs (with her beautiful voice) so perfect. In fact it's wonderful how she manages to put so much emotion into songs like 'I won't slip up' (my favourite) and 'Colfax Ave'. When you get goosebumps time and time again you know they are doing something very right.
And there aren't many who can write a lyric like 'your fingerprints on me have begun to fade'.....
The music of Willy Vlautin has been described as "The Great American road novel in music". This is even more apt nowadays as Vlautin has himself become an accomplished author chronicling the hardships and heartaches of everyday life with a writing style that is highly evocative of the American West. His band Richmond Fontaine have of course ploughed a similar furrow in their dusty Americana in great albums like 2006's "Post to Wire". The Delines and this new album "Colfax" is a side project from this work although it does not mark a radical departure. The band has been formed by Vlautin to showcase songs with a country soul bent and also the wonderful voice of vocalist Amy Boone from the band The Damnations who inhabits and owns all these tracks with a combination of toughness and vulnerability, Also coming along for the ride is Jenny Conlee from The Decemberists as well as fellow Portlanders Sean Oldham and Tucker Jackson.
The album has echoes of last years brilliant Son Volt album "Honky Tonk". It is eleven tales of languid country songs with a first class honours degree in dissecting rundown bars, back roads, dirty motels and the half light of the canyon. Into this backdrop you add the hardy perennials of liquor, drugs and failed relationships. Vlautin is a master storyteller and these songs are actually some of his more accessible with the soulful elements of Boone's voice taking them into a different sphere. The songs are uniformly great. The slow country blues of opener "Calling in" effectively sets the tone for the reminder of the album. Songs like "The Oil Rigs at Night" have a sultry character not usually to be found in Vlautin's work. The excellent "I won't slip up" could be happily covered by Tom Waits, but even more so the gentle piano bar room ballad "Sandman's Coming". The track "State Line" is effortless alternative country with Boone coming over as a cross between Janis Joplin and Patsy Cline. The track which showcases her voice best is the hugely atmospheric "Flight 31" which sees Boone aboard a flight to Toronto and telling her hard luck lullaby. Finally in the excellent "Wichita Ain't So Far Away" she pleads for her estranged lover to return and declares "that night don't feel like a prison light when your with me".
Frankly Vlautin can write this stuff in his sleep. The great news is that he is actually getting more accomplished as the years pass. "Colfax" is a real pearl of an album full of haunted romanticism and people dealing with the problems that dominate our daily existence combined our alarming propensity to make them much worse. An album recommended with hesitation or doubt.
When Willy Vlautin decided to write an album full of songs for Damnations singer Amy Boone he couldn't really have dreamt it would turn out quite as well as this. Colfax is a superior collection of late-night country soul songs and whilst, for me, there are two or three stand outs, such as Oil Rigs At Night, and I Wont Slip Up, this is a brilliantly consistent piece of work. Vlautin has written a batch of beautiful songs and Boone has knocked them out of the ball park. As someone who was not particularly aware of her work with The Damnations, her singing is a revelation. She sings these songs of jaundiced lives, with a rueful and jaded grace., You believe down to your bones that she is the woman trapped in an unhappy marriage on Oil Rigs or the the girl who didn't take a chance to change her life on State Line. Having just watched the band play Bristol, it was evident that this record was no fluke.They are already writing new material and they played two new songs Sunny, and The Golden State which were incredibly good. Roll on the second album!!
Impressive stuff. Vocalist Amy Boone's voice has been described as 'bruised' and that pretty much is on the money. She and main songwriter Willie Vlautin had apparently performed on various other people's records when Ms Boone asked something like 'Hey, why don't you write some songs for me?' This album is the result and the songs cover a lot of downbeat US territory. Unsatisfied wives, traumatised soldiers, rust belt American towns, A definite country music feel (but in a good way) and over it all is Ms Boone's voice, which is just perfect for this kind of stuff, especially on what to me is the stand out track, 82nd Street, just a beautiful song. Recommended.
Definitely my record of 2014. I can only add my 5* rating to previous comments. This is a truly wonderful record that washes over you and eventually becomes a permanent fixture. When Amy sings 'I Won't Slip Up' it is so beguiling. Cannot recommend this album enough-my only regret is missing their tour of the UK this year. Very much hope they will return in 2015