Richmond Fontaine – The High Country

January 01, 1970

(El Cortez)


In recent years, singer,
songwriter and guiding light behind Portland Oregon’s Richmond Fontaine, Willy
Vlautin, has expanded his creative palette dramatically by venturing into the
world of literature, courtesy of a trio of novels whose vibrant characters were
practically crazed by desperation and desire. His second book, titled Northline, melded the story’s darker
designs with an accompanying CD that found the music complementing his
narrative prowess. With The High Country,
Vlautin and company cross the transom even further by turning their album into
a gothic soap opera possessing a dark underbelly, intermingling themes of love,
lust and longing.


The story line is laid out early
on in a spoken preamble — a girl from a dysfunctional family marries a young
man out of wedlock. She miscarries in the eighth month of pregnancy, he’s
subsequently crippled in a logging accident, their marriage crumbles around her
and calamity ensues. Not surprisingly then, the 17 selections – songs
interspersed with dialogue – take on a more a somewhat turgid tonality, all
stark, mournful and despairing. There’s a haunting, subdued tonality that informs
songs like “Let Me Dream of the High Country,” “The Girl on the Logging Road,”
“Claude Murray’s Breakdown” and in fact, the majority of the offerings here.
Yet, the sheer beauty of such descriptive asides as “The Mechanic Falls in Love
With the Girl,” “Deciding To Run” and “I Can See a Room” provides some
redemption. True, The High Country doesn’t allow for the giddiest of circumstance, but if it doesn’t break your
heart, it may just steal it instead.


DOWNLOAD: “The Mechanic Falls in Love With the Girl,” “Deciding

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