THE BIG RELEASE
The Imperial, Decor ★★★★✩
BOBBIE GENTRY is very much a presence these days. Last autumn saw a welcome box-set release, titled The Girl From Chickasaw County, of the complete studio catalogue of this most wonderful and strange of country artists. Mercury Rev’s star-studded reworking of her revered LP The Delta Sweete arrives next month. And her spirit looms large over this lovely second album from Oregon band The Delines.
What The Delines have in common with Gentry is more than just the husky quality of frontwoman Amy Boone’s voice, which is equal parts double cream and liquid smoke. There’s also the atmospheric range of their music, and their first-rate, idiosyncratic songs. These are the work of Willy Vlautin, who has long run parallel careers as a novelist and the leader of excellent Americana group Richmond Fontaine, which he disbanded in 2016.
Vlautin is one of pop’s outstanding storytellers, his big subject being hardscrabble life in left-behind America. No one has a better eye for the telling detail, or a keener ear for the heartbreaking phrase.
Vlautin’s Richmond Fontaine songs tended to be loose and meandering, like the lives they depicted. For The Delines, to suit their country-soul sound, he has focused more on melody and traditional structure and it turns out he’s damned good at that too; his vignettes recall another overlooked country great, Mickey Newbury. Also key is multi-instrumentalist Cory Gray, whose electric piano delicately filigrees these tracks, while his trumpet lines embellish them with, by turns, pathos and brio.
Of the five years since the band’s debut, three were spent awaiting and assisting Boone’s recovery from a serious car accident in Austin, Texas. It’s good to have folk you can rely on, which can’t be said for the people in these songs. Country has always been music for hard times and hard lives; seldom more artfully so than here.
The Imperial is out on Friday. The Delines tour the UK from January 21, thedelines.com
IT’S only rock’n’roll but we love it, and now a spectacular live show at London’s V&A celebrates the history of the electric guitar in a 90-minute musical journey.
Set in a vintage recording studio, Seven Decades: The Story Of Three Guitars That Changed The World combines a real-life band with video projections and documentary footage to tell the story of rock’n’roll from the 1950s to the present day, featuring music from Jimi Hendrix (above) to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin (below) and Rage Against The Machine.
Guitarist Michael John Ross will play a vintage Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster.
The show’s producer, Bill Curbishley, manager of The Who, said: ‘It is a musical educational experience, which reminded me that without the electric guitar there would have been no rock’n’roll.’
Sat and Sun, £30 for an adult ticket, 3pm and 7pm, vam.ac.uk