Published Jun 13, 2014The last few records from Richmond Fontaine (the Oregon-based country-rock outfit fronted by novelist and songwriter Willy Vlautin) were increasingly glum affairs. Rewarding, yes, and full of treasures, but downhearted to be sure. When they disbanded after 2011's The High Country, Vlautin and drummer Sean Oldham looked to reinvent themselves. Working with a new cadre of musicians including Jenny Conlee-Drizos from fellow Oregonian band the Decemberists, and handing the vocals to Austin-based Amy Boone, what was once Richmond Fontaine is now, emphatically, the Delines. It's a new band, a new sound, but the same old, marvellous songwriting. It's a killer combination.
If the album title is indeed an allusion to the slummy Denver avenue once infamous for its dives, brothels and beatniks (Jack Kerouac lived there for a time, and romanticized it in several of his works), then it's apt. Colfax is populated by troubled souls, wandering poets, unhappy love. It's a moody, late night record, but so gorgeous — Boone's voice is reminiscent of Kelly Hogan's, arresting and profound — that it rarely loses focus. And leave it to a novelist to recognize the ideal song for his band to cover: Randy Newman's "Sandman's Coming" floats through the middle of the album like a gentle, cool, acid rainfall. (El Cortex Records)