Saturday, October 22, 2005

Album Review: Richmond Fontaine - The Fitzgerald

There has been a movement of late to make Country cool. Let me put this out there, Country will never be cool. You may as well ask, will it ever be hip to have a pick-up truck in your front yard up on 4 bricks with grass growing out of it. No, it won't. Country may reach the heights of kitsch, occasionally be savvy, and even throw out the occassional good song. But cool? No way, Joakim.

In recent years there have been movements such as (Country Indie), serious cross-over attempts and even Country heroes covering Nine Inch Nails songs. Nice attempts, but these are the exceptions, not the norm. Country will always be the illiterate, illegitimate son of rock'n'roll and folk music. It will always live in backwater shacks with its sibling / partner, Western.

That doesn't mean that amongst the sewage you can't occasionally stumble upon a watch or ring that someone has dropped. If you'll forgive the imagry.

NB: Officiados of Country and Western music, won't mind a bit of what I say. They consider themselves a breed apart. Well, an inbreed apart. They probably welcome the derision of outsiders as the herecy of the non-believer. This attitude was best summed up in the film The Blues Brothers when they blag a gig at a giant shack of a bar. "What kind of music do you guys have here?" they ask. "Both kinds." replies the proprieter, "Country AND Western."

Richmond Fontaine belong to the recent movement. They are lo-fi balladiers, croniclers of bleak, dispossessed lives. A sort of Tindersticks from the sticks. Except they are not from the sticks. They sing of urban decay: desperate crimes gone wrong; sad and lonely deaths; cheap sex in unfulfilling motels. Don't expect to bounce up and down at a Richmond Fontaine gig. But do expect to be richly rewarded with beautifully-painted verbal-imagry, even if the palette is very dark indeed.

PS since writing the review, I did go to a Richmond Fontaine gig. They are a lot more upbeat live, than their last album suggest. More than Mourn-o-billy.

Rating: 3 dead ex-con thumbs poking up from the undergrowth.

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