[AMERICANA NOIR] Save for one Randy Newman cover, the Delines' debut album, Colfax, consists of 11 tracks penned by Richmond Fontaine songwriter and acclaimed novelist Willy Vlautin. But it plays like one long song—at the same pace, in the same key, about the same character, sung in the same enervating monotone. By now, listeners (and readers) know what to expect from Vlautin's unremittingly bleak landscape of hard-luck losers. In that regard, Colfax offers no surprises. The litany of tragic tales gets oppressive, unleavened by any humor or even an uptempo tune.
Putting Vlautin's words in a female singer's mouth isn't less convincing than if they'd come from his own, but he invests more feeling in his own vocals for Richmond Fontaine (he only contributes nondescript backup vocals here, and guitar). It's not that Amy Boone can't sing—she has a fine voice—it's that she barely seems to.
There's a moment on one song, "The Oil Rigs at Night," when her voice breaks with emotion. It stands out the way an epic, 10-minute guitar solo might on another album. Maybe it's the only way to approach these characters, so beaten down by their circumstances that they can barely muster the energy to bemoan them.
SEE IT: The Delines play Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Fernando, on Wednesday, June 25. 9 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.