Currently comprised of founding members Willy Vlautin (vocals, acoustic guitar and electric guitar) and Dave Harding (bass, backing vocals), along with Sean Oldham (drums, percussion, vibes and backing vocals), Dan Eccles (guitar) and Paul Brainard (pedal steel, piano, acoustic guitar, trumpet, backing vocals), the Portland, OR-based alt country quintet Richmond Fontaine can trace its origins back to 1994 when the band’s founding duo met at Portland Meadows Racetrack, where they bonded over betting on the ponies and their mutual love of Husker Du, Willie Nelson, X, The Blasters and The Replacements, and they quickly decided to collaborate together. After a lineup change with the band expanding to a quintet, they developed reputation for a sounda that frequently meshed elements of rock, country, punk, folk and Americana paired with Vlautin’s narrative-like songwriting, which resulted in praise from the likes of nationally and internationally recognized media outlets including Uncut, Q Magazine, Mojo, The Independent, The Sun and others.
Interestingly, over the past decade, the band’s Vlautin has developed a reputation as a critically applauded and commercially successful novelist with his debut novel The Motel Life winning a Silver Pen Award from the State of Nevada and landed on the The Washington Post’s Top 25 Books of 2007 — and later, the book was adapted into the critically acclaimed motion picture, The Motel Life which starred Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. Vlautin’s 2008 sophomore novel, Northline was a San Francisco Chronicle Top Ten Bestseller. 2010’s Lean on Pete won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and was named Hot Press’ book of the year. 2014’s The Free continued an incredible run of prolificacy which included the band’s 9 preceding full-length albums, an instrumental soundtrack for Northline, two live albums and an EP.
After a three year hiatus from recording, the members of Richmond Fontaine returned to the studio with their long-time producer and collaborator John Askew to write and record, 2016’s You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, which was released by one of my favorite labels, Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and Decor Records across Europe. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall that I wrote about album single “Wake Up Ray,” a jangling bit of old school country-influenced alt country with Vlautin’s novelistic attention to detail, which managed to created a very real, lived in world in which the song’s characters wake up every single day to a lonely life and an even lonelier house that they’ve learned to hate — and yet they’re aware that because of the choices they made, that their position (if not, their very fate) is largely inescapable. But underneath the surface, is a wistful and mournful recognition of life and love’s impermanence.
Following the release of You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, the members of the band formally announced that it would be their final traditional album and tour; however, as the band’s Vlautin was putting the finishing touches on his fifth novel, Don’t Skip Out on Me which is slated for a February 13, 2018 release through HarperCollins, he was able to round up the band to record an instrumental, companion soundtrack, and while a digital download of the soundtrack will be bundled with the book, Richmond Fontaine’s long-time label home felt that it deserved it’s own release — February 16, 2018 with an extremely limited vinyl release both in the States and in Europe, through Decor Records.
Soundtrack single “Horace And The Trophy” while clearly nodding to classic, 60s and 70s Renegade Country, 70s AM rock possesses an obvious cinematic quality, as though it should be part of the soundtrack of a deliberate, thoughtful road trip movies, featuring rugged, heartbroken and rootless loners crisscrossing the continent, fleeing a troubled past or an uncertain future.