[SINGER-SONGROCKER] Wikipedia says the name Fernando means "€œcourageous, adventurer, conqueror, and leader," and as longtime watchers of Portland'€™s Americana scene know, in the case of Fernando Viciconte, that's no misnomer. He is courageous in the naked passion he'€™s always brought to his songwriting and performances, adventurous in his studio productions and a rousing bandleader.
The good news is that he's finally conquered the health problems that have long hampered his career progress despite widespread acclaim (Billboard once compared him to Elliott Smith), and a 2013 operation to repair a long-misdiagnosed problem affecting his vocal cords means that Viciconte can finally give his latest and perhaps finest album, Leave the Radio On, the push it richly deserves. Peter Buck is far from slumming when contributing guitar or mandolin to all but three of the album's 11 tracks. These tough and lovely songs absolutely befit his world-class accompaniment.
Richmond Fontaine guitarist Dan Eccles and the album's other players deliver inspired performances as well. Viciconte's Lennonesque rasp has never sounded stronger, or more tender. This singer-songwriter is no self-obsessed navel-gazer; the operative pronoun here is "we," not "I." And despite some bleak sentiments, Radio ultimately conveys a bruised but enduring sense of hope. JEFF ROSENBERG.
SEE IT: Fernando plays Star Theater, 13 NW 6th Ave., with the Delines and Mike Coykendall, on Saturday, Aug. 29. 9 pm. $10. 21+.