16/09/2011 | Richmond Fontaine – Bullingdon Arms, Oxford

Lauren Corona

Support for the night comes from Laura Gibson. Laura is joined on stage by Sean Ogilvie (whose name, she announces, can be rearranged to spell “Eagle Vision”, while “Albino Sugar” is an anagram of her own name) who impressively manages to play drums, keyboards and a mouth organ with a tube attached all at the same time. She sings pop-tinged folk songs, which are both charming and well crafted. The set is enjoyable, but is pretty much overshadowed by the headliners, which is not a slight to her so much as a testament to the power of Richmond Fontaine.

Richmond Fontaine are a band that, despite having just released their tenth studio album, are relatively little-known. Those who are aware of their music, however, tend to love them fiercely. The band announce that they’ll be playing their new album, The High Country, in its entirety before returning to play some older tracks. Singer Willy Vlautin’s lyrics often read like condensed short stories (in fact, he has published three extremely well-received novels since 2006, but that’s by the by, really) and the new record is actually a concept album, or a novel in song if you will, about the life of an auto-parts clerk, her unsuitable husband and her mechanic lover, set in the backdrop of a logging town in rural Oregon. As such, it makes sense that they perform the album as a whole tonight. Amy Boone from the Damnations joins them on some songs, to sing the female vocal parts. The album is stunning. Utterly stunning. And, it’s more than amazing to see it performed as a whole.

For the second half of the set, the band crack out some of their other material. Highlights included “Always on the Ride” and “Willamette” from the seminal album Post to Wire, as well as “Lonnie”, “Two Alone” and a rare gem in the guise of “1968” which Willy announces was one of the first songs ever written by Richmond Fontaine. In any case, the band are compelling to watch and engage with the audience with such an easy, gracious charm that it would be hard not to enjoy watching them play. I sincerely urge you to check them out next time they play somewhere in your vicinity. Until then, listen to their records and bask in the stories of heartbreak, hard-times and hope.

www.richmondfontaine.com