Category Archives: Alt-country

​Richmond Fontaine – Farewell Tour & Vinyl Reissues

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Richmond Fontaine will play a string of 6 UK dates this October- including London Electric Ballroom on October 21 2016- their final ever tour before founding member and songwriter Willy Vlautin disbands his cult group. Coming in the wake of Richmond Fontaine’s critically applauded tenth and final album YOU CAN’T GO BACK IF THERE’S NOTHING TO GO BACK TO (out now through Décor Records), which topped the official Americana charts and made Rough Trade’s Album of The Month, the farewell tour will also take in a support slot opening up for the band’s idol Willie Nelson and a handful of European festival appearances.

It’s been a twenty year ride, and a good one. At the start of 2016, just prior to the release of YOU CAN’T GO BACK IF THERE’S NOTHING TO GO BACK TO, Vlautin let out the sad news that the record would also be their last, saying; “Richmond Fontaine has had a great 20+ year run and these guys are my best pals so it’s a tough decision but the right one.” That said, the band’s swansong is also throwing up some consolatory ‘firsts’ – Richmond Fontaine will be reissuing their classic albums The Fitzgeraldand Thirteen Cities on 180gm vinyl for the very first time, just ahead of the live dates on October 14th. The farewell tour will also feature a requests portion of the show, where fans can choose their top ten tracks for the band to play- either leave a message on the bands’ Facebook page, tweet using the hashtag #RichmondFontaineRequests or email at info@decorrecords.com . The top ten choices will be picked a month before the tour and worked into the set.

Alongside the activity of his other band The Delines, Vlautin continues to remain in demand as a critically acclaimed author (published through Faber & Faber) who is revered by his fellow writers (Roddy Doyle, Donna Tartt and George Pelecanos are all fans). A BFI/Film4 film adaptation of his novel Lean on Pete- starring Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny- is shooting this summer, directed by the Oscar-nominated Stephen Haigh (45 Years). This will be the second of Willy’s novels to be translated for the big screen, with the adaptation of his first book The Motel Life released in 2006, starring Kris Kristofferson and Dakota Fanning.

Recorded and produced in Portland, Oregon by John Askew at Flora Studios, YOU CAN’T GO BACK features the stalwart lineup of Willy Vlautin on guitar/vocals, Sean Oldham on drums, Dan Eccles on guitar, and Paul Brainard on pedal steel. Freddy Trujillo joins on bass from The Delines, longtime friend Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists) plays keyboards. This album catches Vlautin’s songwriting at his strongest. Often compared to Springsteen and Lou Reed, Vlautin has established his own voice over his widely acclaimed ten LPs and four novels, and YOU CAN’T GO BACK IF THERE’S NOTHING TO GO BACK TO finds the band at its very best. Richmond Fontaine again has produced a wealth of beautifully executed story songs, the ilk of which is rarely matched in today’s musical landscape.

Formed in 1994, Richmond Fontaine rose to fame in 2004 off the back of their 5th album, Post To Wire, it went on to sell over 20,000 copies and earned them places in the top 10 year end polls which was again repeated the following year with their album,The Fitzgerald. The press snowballed with those and the following three albums which saw the band playing Green Man, Primavera, End of the Road, while building a loyal following over the last 11 years. Vlautin is a successful author with four novels published via Faber & Faber.

Oct 16 – Cardiff – Clwb Ifor Bach 7:00 *^
Oct 17 – Manchester – Deaf Institute 7:30 *^
Oct 18 – Edinburgh – The Caves – 7:30 *^
Oct 19 – Hebden Bridge – Trades Club 7:30 *^
Oct 20 – Nottingham – The Maze 7:30 SOLD OUT *^
Oct 21 – London – Electric Ballroom – last ever UK show
* Peter Bruntnell supporting ^ Jerry Joseph supporting

BJ Barham – Rockingham

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Rockingham is the solo debut album from American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham, the album takes it title from the North Carolina county where he was born and spent his formative years, despite the title the album is not an autobiographical affair, with the exception of one track Madeline written for his daughter, instead Barhams fictional characters and stories reflect and take inspiration from his hometown.

“This is the first record I’ve ever made that’s not autobiographical—it’s fictional narrative in a very real place,” Barham says. “These songs are human condition stories set in my hometown, Reidsville.”

The video for the title track is set in Barhams hometown Reidsville, and included shots of his parents’ front porch and a tobacco barn where he worked as a teenager.

Adopting troubadour mode and drawing back from the rock ‘n’ roll roots music of American Aquarium the album inception was borne of an experience while touring with the alt-country band in Europe, the band were playing in Belgium at the time of the awful tragedy in Paris on the Friday the 13 of November, when gunmen and suicide bombers ran riot in the city leaving 130 people dead and many more injured and scarred physically and mentally for life.

“The onslaught of text messages, voicemails and everything that came in the next day sparked something in me,” Barham remembers. “In the next two days, the entire record was written.”

On his return to the US Barham kept the momentum of the album going and teamed up with the co-producer of American Aquarium’s album Wolves Bradley Cook, Cook’s brother Phil, Kyle Keegan and American Aquarium’s Ryan Johnson and Whit Wright to rehearse and record the album in just over a week at Durham NC Overdub Lane.

BJ Barham – Road To Nowhere

I like this album, like it a lot, of it’s type I’m struggling to recall an album as good as this one, though I have one reservation, because I love American Aquarium too and I’m hoping Barham has no need to choose between solo and band recordings only anytime soon.

If you’d like to hear songs from the album up close and personal BJ is in the UK this month and has these dates lined-up:

16-Jul Truck Festival, Oxford

18-Jul The Bicycle Shop, Norwich

19-Jul The Albert, Brighton

20-Jul Gullivers, Manchester

21-Jul The Chattery, Swansea

22-Jul The Borderline, London

The album was funded through a successful Pledge campaign and will be released in the UK by At The Helm Records on July the 22nd coinciding with the London show,

BJ. Barham / Facebook / Twitter

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“This is just an outlet for a songwriter. It’s me being able to do something different. This is like people who love their jobs, picking up hobbies,” says Barham, “This is an exercise for myself.”