Listening to the sound of country soul is an aesthetically pleasing experience and the current vogue for this style of Americana music is generating some extremely strong albums. On the back of excellent releases by the UK’s Danny and the Champions of the World and the US’s Shinyribs, The Delines have come up trumps with one of the year’s most atmospheric and mesmeric albums in COLFAX. It’s a double UK delight that the band, founded by Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin, are currently visiting this country to promote the launch of this debut record.
Midlands promoters Cosmic American had little reluctance to book the band and were rewarded with a near sell-out crowd in the Hare and Hounds’ smaller music room. To the great pleasure of the many knowledgeable music fans attending the show, COLFAX was played in its entirety and the band perfectly balanced the set by interspersing several contrasting tunes from outside the album thus keeping the overall performance fresh. The pin drop silence of respect to the vocals of Amy Boone and the buzz at the end of the show suggested an overwhelming approval to a project which hopefully may not be confined to a solitary release.
The story behind COLFAX indicates that the highly literate Vlautin had a plan to write a number of songs that suited the flawless vocals of Amy who for over a decade has been a leading light in the Austin music scene as the voice behind Damnation Tx. With a background steeped in the culture of alt-country, Vlautin had no hesitation in bringing in the horns, keys and pedal steel to give the sound a steer in a soulful direction. The ease of the transportation of the vibes of COLFAX from studio to the stage is a credit to the road band put together which included bassist Freddie Trujilo, Cory Gray on keys and trumpet and Vlautin’s fellow Richmond Fontaine percussionist Sean Oldham.
Prior to Willy, Amy and the boys filling the room with an hour and half of Americana bliss, Irish duo The Lost Brothers opened up with a set of two part harmony inspired folk songs backed by the fine pedal steel guitar talents of Dave Murphy. The guys had become acquainted with Willy while based in his home city of Portland, Oregon and proved to be the ideal warm up act. So impressed with the steel contribution of Murphy, he became the honorary missing piece of The Delines jigsaw for the evening when joining the band for the final third of the set. This segment included a couple of fantastic tracks not on COLFAX led by the limited release song ‘Slim and Margy’ (available only on a Record Store Day 45) and a cover of the Webb Pierce classic ‘There Stands the Glass’.
Also outside of COLFAX, Willy and Amy excelled as a vocal duo on the Dolorean number ‘What One Bottle Can Do’, while a new song during the encore, ‘Golden State’, indicated that there may be more to come from The Delines. Amy showed why she is such a respected artist in Austin, Texas with one of her songs ‘Heart, Trust and Pride’, while even Freddie stepped forward to sing a number from his solo work ‘Freddy Fender’.
However this night was all about COLFAX and right from the start, the hypnotic tones of ‘Calling In’, ‘Colfax Avenue’ and ‘The Oil Rigs at Night’ filled every crevice of the tightly packed room. The latter is the finest track on the record but after listening to the album live it was strongly rivalled by ‘Stateline’. The encore saw Amy stroll back on stage solo to deliver the Randy Newman song ‘Sandman’s Coming’ from the keyboard and as per the record, the closing moments belonged to ‘82nd Street’.
It is my prediction that COLFAX will grow and grow as an album and it was a privilege to be in a position to listen to an intimate performance of it. Willy Vlautin deserves every ounce of praise heading in his direction for inspiring The Delines project and Amy Boone is welcome back in Birmingham anytime to grace us with her vocals.