Monday, November 17, 2014

States of Delines

Songs that masterfully tell stories, while bringing out empathy in us for their characters, are always a delight. Even better and much rarer is the joy of enjoying songs free of cliches. Add in a passionately moving and beautiful voice into the mix and you have a great album. The Delines debut album, Colfax Ave., sings unforgettably powerful stories better than any other album I can think of in recent memory.  

How the Delines came to be is a terrific story in itself.  Willy Vlauntin, author, song-writer, and frontman for the band Richmond Fontaine, was approached by one of the band's backup singers Amy Boone.  She asked him to write an album for her.  Vlauntin reports that for some time he had been entranced with Amy's voice as he listened to her warm up for gigs.  He was so impressed with her singing that he decided to take her up on her offer and write an album of music for her.  

Vlauntin spent two years writing the songs for Colfax Ave. He says it was a joy crafting songs and stories that he wanted to tell, but that were not suited to his voice.  At the same time, he expressed personal vulnerability regarding this project.  What if Boone did not like these songs? Fortunately, for all of us, she liked them.

Vlauntin and Richmond Fontaine drummer Sean Oldham then set out to fill out the rest of the band for this project. They found some terrific musicians to round out the band.  Tucker Jackson is on pedal steel. The Decemberists’ Jenny Conlee is on keyboards, and Freddy Trujillo is on bass.  Vlauntin serves as the band’s guitarist.

The title cut, “Colfax Ave.," tells the powerful story of a sister trying to save her brother, a veteran suffering PTSD, from his self destructive path. The writing is so strong that we feel empathy and concern for both the sister and her brother. And not only is the brother in danger. The sister is clearly putting herself out on a limb to save him. “The Oil Rigs at Night” tells the story of a woman planning on leaving her man, if only she can bring herself to do it. During this song the protagonist laments, “I’ve covered up my heart for so many years, I don’t even know if it’s survived.” Throughout this album Boone’s passionate voice rings with a quiet intensity, vulnerability, and resilience. Here is a terrific performance of "The Oil Rigs At Night" performed live on KEXP.

Here's hoping that more music comes out of this amazing "side project" by these terrific artists.

Note:  This will serve as our final regular post of the year. Fletcher and I are both hard at work compiling our respective "Best of 2014" lists, and we plan to get that posted within a couple of weeks.

No comments:

Post a Comment