richmond fontaine The High Country (180g vinyl LP, £19.95)label: Diverse Records
An operatically tragic tale is told in Richmond Fontaineís tenth studio album, The High Country. More than a concept piece, the Portland, Oregon four-piece have crafted a song-novel, in which a gripping tale is spun with fully fleshed-out characters, changing scenes, snippets of radio and spoken word passages. Itís a spectacularly unique album. Richmond Fontaineís frontman, Willy Vlautin, is a published novelist whose 2006 debut, The Motel Life, has just been turned into a major motion directed by the Polsky Brothers and starring Dakota Fanning, Stephen Dorff and Kris Kristofferson. With Richmond Fontaineís latest album, heís combined that story-telling prowess with his songwriting gift to stunning effect. Set in a rural logging community in Oregon, The High Country is a gothic love story between a mechanic and an auto parts store counter girl, whose secret love inspires an effort to escape the darkness of the world that surrounds them. Itís a world of drugs, violence, madness, loneliness and desperation set against a backdrop of endless roads and the remains of a forest brutalised by logging. In this story of light versus dark, Vlautin has woven a tale where screw-ups and freaks terrorise the lives of innocents. From stark, romantic ballads and dialogue sequences to raw Northwest garage rock and cinematic songscapes, this album sees Richmond Fontaineís musical trajectory soar far beyond their cowpunk roots, ably assisted by producer John Askew (The Dodos, Karl Blau).
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