The Delines – The Duchess, York, 7th September 2015
About midway through this evening’s set, Amy Boone asks if the stage lights can be dimmed. It will “help the mood”, she suggests. An already caliginous Duchess begins to assume that murky orange neon glow one can see at the darkest end of the street. Wreathed in deep shadows, gloomy and vaguely sombre, it is the perfect setting in which to experience the music of The Delines.
Assembled by the Portland, Oregon singer-songwriter Willy Vlautin, The Delines comprise his fellow Richmond Fontaine bandmate Sean Oldham on drums, the much sought after local bassist Freddy Trujillo, multi-instrumentalist Cory Gray (who tonight features on both keys and trumpet) and singer Amy Boone from the revered Austin, Texas alt-country group The Damnations. Together they create a rich, dark swell of country soul.
For ninety compelling minutes tonight The Delines take us on an absorbing musical journey, using as their road map a dazzling collection of songs from last year’s debut album Colfax, their current tour EP Scenic Sessions, plus a couple of new tunes that will appear on their next record. It is a long, meandering and beautiful trip. Boone’s voice – a deeply expressive, emotive and yearning instrument that operates along a continuum somewhere between the ethereal grace of Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies and the restrained, raw power of the hugely underrated English singer Carol Grimes – brings Vlautin’s tales of ordinary human failings and hardship memorably to life.
On ‘The Oil Rigs at Night’ you can practically see the shadows of the derricks dancing in the moonlight, whilst on the ensuing ‘Wichita Ain’t So Far Away’ you are left feeling that the promised better life is still just tantalisingly out of reach. ‘Calling In’ – where Vlautin’s cracked timbre is a perfect counterpoint to the world-weary resignation that courses through Boone’s veins – is nothing short of stunning. “Darkness ain’t such a hard road, if we don’t go down it alone” she sings. These are words that offer us all some kind of hope from the most unfathomable of emotional adversities.
The Delines sign off with ‘He Told Her The City Was Killing Him’, another wracked tale of thwarted ambition that further illustrates Vlautin’s ability to somehow capture the sheer ordinariness of everyday feelings and The Delines unbridled capacity to translate them into powerful songs of real lyrical beauty.
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