There were more than a few broken hearts when it was announced that Richmond Fontaine would cease as a band in 2016 – and more than a few who sort of assumed that Willy Vlautin would now be concentrating his writing powers primarily on his novels. And while he has certainly been no slacker with the written word there was something of a collective sigh when it became apparent that The Delines were not just a side project, but were the new band. ‘Colfax‘, released in 2014 , had brought a new sound to Willy’s writing – a female perspective embodied in Amy Boone and this remained the blueprint (well, up until very recently) for the follow up release 2019’s ‘The Imperial’. It was an album that had been delayed by Amy Boone’s car crash and the serious injuries and trauma she’d suffered. And ‘The Imperial‘ was, as a result, even more world-weary than the debut release.
The Delines have a sound that builds on the Richmond Fontaine rhythm section of Sean Oldham and Freddy Trujillo with Tucker Jackson on pedal steel and Cory Gray on keyboards and trumpet (often at the same time) and John Askew on baritone guitar giving more of those dark and deep low notes. The blend here is less alt-country and more soulful rock and balladry. But with an edge – Vlautin’s characters are at the end of their tethers, have been dealt a bad hand by life and, more often than not, have taken that bad hand and thrown away their only good cards. And through all of that they are still, some of the time anyway, holding on to some sort of hope. And, uh, The Delines, well – they are even better live.
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Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan’s music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That’s not much to ask, is it?