Lost Son (Cavity Search)
by Jon Sarre
Although they may run a distant second in the race for the hearts of Pacific NorthWest alt-country fans to Fernando Viciconte’s self-monkiered outfit (and I’ll bet ya didn’t even know there was such a contest), many well-read in the tales of Larry Brown and various other Falkner mystique wanna-be boys’n’girls will find a soft spot in their lobes (and maybe guts, too) for Richmond Fontaine‘s Cascadian-Gothic Green River Killer campfire poetry set to jumpy too-much-so-to-be-Country-uh-call-it-alt-Gram-Parsons whatchamacallit. Lead guy Willy Vlautin may sound like a fourteen year-old tryin’ to imitate the whiskey’n’smoke-scarred wail of a lost Delta bluelip preserved on an ancient 78, but his localized Big Foot land stories ’bout booze, drugs, oddball lowlifes, often specific units of currency ($1400 on “Cascade,” $300 and $200 on “Fifteen Year Old Kid in Nogales, Mexico,” “thirty dollar bill” on “Pinkerton”) and several different lengths of time (days, hours, years, etc) have a certain creepy appeal, similar to that of Twin Peaks (which some guy down in Medford, OR by the California border once referred to as “a sitcom,” uh huh), so with Vlautin bein’ a good yarn spinner, one can deal with the fact that he doesn’t sound all that world-weary.
Luther Russell, Portland’s avatar (cuz every locale’s gotta have one) of this dark, overcast & musty (just like the weather) answer to the Eagles, produced Lost Son in his indomitable style, thus the slide, organ riffs, and the big rave up parts when the drums kick in and the band hit all the strings and step back like they’re performing on Saturday Night Live all come off perfectly, with nothing outta place (which makes me wanna hear Russell behind the boards of a really lousy band, they’d probably still sound real bad!). Comin’ from where this is comin’ from (the long tradition of country-rock crossover starting with Willie’n’Waylon) and considerin’ what’s hot now (Garth Brooks and Wilco) and who’s doin’ this (twenty-something indie rockers weaned on the Blasters, X, and the Replacements), Richmond Fontaine’s sorta something special – literate without bein’ boring, authentic without really tryin’ too hard at it, and accessible while transcending yer typical mainstream shit.
(PO Box 42246 Portland, OR 97242)