The Delines - Imperial - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Delines - Imperial

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:9 Release Date:2019-01-11
The Delines - Imperial
The Delines - Imperial

Willy Vlautin is a man of many talents. He first came to prominence with his Americana band Richmond Fontaine, where he proved himself not only as a brilliant songwriter and lyricist but also as a good singer with a gritty voice. His lyrical capabilities were then transformed into fiction writing, Vlautin getting dubbed as the next Raymond Carver. Rightfully so too, as he, in both his lyrics and ‘other’ writing stuck to the concept to tell the story ‘as it is’ - not insisting on either happy or not so happy endings.

Still, he did not stop there but went into another musical venture called The Delines. Many Richmond Fontaine fans initially questioned Vlautin’s decision to start The Delines, as his compositional style, as well the lyrics for the songs on the band’s initial offering Colfax had practically no stylistic changes compared to his ‘primary’ band.

But then, anybody who had witnessed The Delines live would immediately realize why Vlautin left all the vocal duties to Amy Boone, the band’s lead singer. On first listen, Boone’s vocals might seem nothing striking, but her vocals have the tendency to slowly unveil their nuances and slowly pull you in into a vortex they create along with Vlautin’s lyrics.

What were only initial touches on Colfax, became a full-blown concept on Imperial, The Delines second release. That concept has located the music squarely into the country soul tendencies of the likes of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, with jazzy touches and Amy Boone delivering Vlautin’s often stark lyrics as if Dusty Springfield is re-interpreting Nat King Cole who is singing about the fortune of downtrodden and lost. An incredibly striking combination.

If anybody wondered why it took Vlautin, Boone and the rest of The Delines four years to come up with Imperial, the reasons lie in the fact that Boone was involved in a car accident that left her with both of her legs fractured. She had to go through a series of operations and long-term rehabilitation. This happened in 2016 when the band already started working on this album, but they decided to put everything on hold until Boone recovered.

The moment “Cheer Up Charlie” opens the album, you realize what a wise decision it was and why Vlautin is so enamored with Boone’s vocals.  The opener also sets the musical theme of the album, that takes its grip and doesn’t leave you through its ten tracks, with the slow-burning “Let’s Be Us Again”, the single “Holly The Hustle” with its brilliant understated brass arrangement and  “That Old Haunted Place being particular highlights.

Imperial is one of those albums that keeps bringing up rewards the more you listen to it and is the best music Vlautin has come up so far with either of his bands.

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