El Cortez Records
Willy Vlautin has proven to be quite the Americana renaissance man with his time in the highly respected alt-country group Richmond Fontaine, a second career as an acclaimed novelist (Lean On Pete, Don’t Skip Out On Me) and most recently as main songwriter for The Delines.
This, their second album, would have come out a year or two ago if it hadn’t been for the terrible accident that saw singer Amy Boone hit by a car and her subsequent slow recovery from serious multiple injuries. Thankfully they were able to complete The Imperial and the results are quite stunning, an early contender for album of the year.
The template is the same as their debut Colfax but in all areas they’ve added further depth, richness and detail to the songs. The tender heartache that permeates the album is one of tragedy, remorse, lost opportunities and a scattered trail of broken hearts in small-town America.
The band do their job perfectly, solid and soulful, effusive in their restraint. Out front, Boone is the crowning glory with her voice that is pure country soul, the soundtrack to dimly lit bars, empty streets and lonely apartments. She has an innate ability to convey the pain and optimism of The Imperial’s characters in such a way that you feel both comforted and emotionally worn by the heavy-hearted impact of the album, from start to finish.
Charley, Sonny, Holly, Eddie & Polly – they’re all damaged people looking to catch a break, discouraged by their circumstances. The Delines bring them to life with vivid detail across musical vignettes soaked in country, jazz-tinged soul – a smoky, bruised beauty aesthetic that will melt even the hardened of hearts.