It seems to happen less often these days but sometimes you here an album that captures you with a timeless quality, it's now but it speaks of something back then but in such a raw and emotive fashion, the magical elements of song and words combined to achieve something so elusive to many. Portland based The Delines have achieved that with their debut album Colfax, this is a stunning record. Each song on the album is a tale of struggle and upheaval and told with honest emotion that never borders on maudlin, all against the backdrop of an impassioned country soul sound. Main songwriter Willy Vlautin will be known to some through his novels, and it's this novelistic bent that is brought to each song. They tell stories of heartache and despair, the struggles of existence, vocalist Amy Boone has an incredible voice, soulful with a melancholy resignation, there aren't many who can sing with such honesty and understanding. The band also features Sean Olham ex Richmond Fontaine and Jenny Conlee-Drizos from the Decemberists.
Calling In twists your ear, this is something different musically it's very soulful but with a lilting pedal steel that adds to a haunting sadness. Vlautin has such a precise writing style, it's almost cinematic, these little vignettes that hold up the struggles we all face.
All the people on the street below, breaking their backs
Trying not to miss there bus, hoping some old fat man won't give them the sack
Suckers drying up in line, tell me that we'll never have to go back
Colfax Avenue tells the harrowing tale of a sister driving up the avenue looking for her brother, who has returned from war and is floating from bar to bar.
He wasn't like this before he left, now he comes back and his minds a mess
And the army what do they do?
My husbands worn out and my kids are scared
But he's my little brother and he's out there
Somewhere up and down Colfax avenue.
The Oil Rigs at Night is the stand out track, a soulful midnight confessional of a lover leaving her husband while he is working on the oil rigs off the gulf coast. Boone just has this sense of defeated resignation in her voice, pure country soul. Witchita Ain't So Far Away sounds a little like The Jayhawks with a more country sound, Boone is pleading mode hoping he truck driving lover will come back. I Won't Slip Up is someone trying to reform, wanting a lift into town to go to Little Sam's but promising not to slip up. State Line is drenched in southern soul, a teen trying to escape the dreariness of small town life only to return.
Now I'm forty four years old and I can't make it across
And I still can't escape that home. And no place do I find home
I'm ashamed but it's true, forever stuck on the state line,
While everyone else is blurring by.
The Delines will be touring Australia this month do get along to see this magnificent album performed live.