Store Sounds: The Delines – "Colfax"

Posted: Jun 29 2015

For this month's Store Sounds, we're gonna keep things a little more current and a lot closer to home. For the last half-year or so, I've been straight-up enthralled with Colfax, the 2014 debut album by Portland band the Delines. This one's been on constant rotation here at Freeman, especially during that final hour before closing up the shop. There's just something inherently nocturnal about this band's rich country-soul tunes that make it the perfect nighttime listen.

Formed by Willy Vlautin and comprising members of his long-running alt-country outfit Richmond Fontaine, the Delines are anchored by the simmering vocals of lead singer Amy Boone. Backed up by perfectly understated, unhurried instrumentation with just the right amount of pedal-steel whine, Boone's voice is weathered and soulful, the precise instrument to deliver Vlautin's gorgeous lyrics.

An accomplished novelist, Vlautin's songs in Richmond Fontaine (and the stories in his books, which I'd strongly recommend) always skewed towards down-on-their-luck characters, depressed and alcohol-ridden, living on the fringe of contemporary America. He stays in familiar territory with the Delines, but with Boone singing them, they're given a feminine perspective not seen as much in his previous band – here, it works beautifully. The Delines' music takes its cues from classic country-soul artists like Sammy Smith, and it absolutely drips in late-night, neon-lit vibes.

On "He Told Her the City Was Killing Him," the band's spare, haunting instrumentation bolsters Boone's vocal delivery, as a sparse electric guitar chimes against the bend and pull of the pedal-steel, and a quiet Fender Rhodes piano cloaks it all in a dusky warmth. And on the album's centerpiece, the stunning "State Line," Boone sings a crushing tale of two of the most enduring themes in American music – the desire to escape the suffocation of a small town, and the inability to ultimately do so. 

Those are just a few highlights – really, the whole album is great (although the Randy Newman cover doesn't do as much for me as the originals). Check out all of Colfax on their Bandcamp site, where it's available for streaming or purchase, or catch 'em July 9 at the Connor Byrne in Ballard. You'll definitely find me there.



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