LIVE: The Delines – Pocklington Arts Centre, 13/07/2022
“It’s six o’clock in the morning.”Amy Boone emotes the opening line to ‘This Ain’t No Getaway’, the opening song to The Delines’ set. It’s fast approaching nine in the evening here, but in Delines’ world you suspect that it is always 6am. That time of day, especially after the night before, when everything seems to be broken. Because this is the creative cosmos in which Willy Vlautin – The Delines’ principal songwriter – lives and breathes. His songs are populated by characters for whom abandonment, isolation, and desolation are central elements of their often battered and bruised existence and through the music of The Delines Vlautin transports us into their world.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the American band are here on this side of the Atlantic for a tour of the UK and Europe that began eight days ago in Belgium, takes them to various points in this country, before ending next week with three dates in Italy. Originally scheduled for February to coincide with the release of their third album proper, The Sea Drift, the tour had to be postponed and Pocklington in East Yorkshire is one of the rearranged dates on that itinerary.
By any reasonable account, The Sea Drift must be The Delines’ most complete, and undoubtedly their best recording to date. From the evocative cover photo of Galveston’s historic Pleasure Pier in Texas to the eleven classic Southern country soul tunes that lie under the record’s hood, it serves as a remarkable exploration of the US Gulf Coast replete with many of the disenfranchised characters with whom we have become most familiar through Willy Vlautin’s past musical life in Richmond Fontaine and the numerous novels he has written. And these often hapless, yet remarkably pragmatic and resilient individuals are brought into sharp widescreen focus by the sheer collective quality and class of Vlautin himself on guitar and vocals, Amy Boone (lead vocals), Freddy Trujillo (bass and vocals), Sean Oldham (drums and vocals) and Cory Gray (keyboards, trumpet and arrangements).
The songs from The Sea Drift sound majestic, somehow even more real when experienced in the live setting. When I first heard ‘Little Earl’, the first single to be taken from the album, I swear I played it back-to-back five times, so impressed was I by its effortless groove and the way it relocated the listener to the song’s incidental time and place. A tale of a dollar store theft gone badly wrong, Vlautin’s skill as a writer is once more evident. Despite their undoubted flaws, you do end feeling a certain sympathy for the protagonists as he keys in on their vulnerabilities.
The Delines’ sound comes to us immersed in a downcast, yet strangely beautiful melancholia so much so that prior to The Sea Drift Amy Boone had asked Willy Vlautin if he could write her “a love song once in a while, a song that isn’t so heavy.” Her touchstone for such a request was the late great Louisiana musician Tony Joe White’s classic composition ‘Rainy Night In Georgia’. And do you know what, Vlautin damn near managed it with tonight’s closing song ‘Drowning In Plain Sight’ in which the aching beauty of Boone’s voice magnifies the yearning therein.
Amy Boone tells us that Willy Vlautin has been busy writing new material whilst on this tour – “by the time we get back Stateside, he’ll have written a whole new album” – and we get two new songs from The Delines tonight, the second of which is also the first encore. Provisionally called ‘Waiting Out The Heat’ – an entirely apposite title given the prolonged temperatures in this country right now that are even higher than in the Greek islands – it may well barrel along with a delightful spring in its step though lines such as “we hear gunshots, but they are miles away” remind us that in The Delines’ world you do not have to stray too far to find tragedy and sadness.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.
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