Richmond Fontaine – “Don’t Skip Out on Me” (2018) review
Richmond Fontaine – Don’t Skip Out on Me (Fluff and Gravy Records, 2018)
Don’t Skip Out On Me Now is a soundtrack of sorts, only it’s the soundtrack to a book by the same title written by Willy Vlautin, with a teaser that goes something like this: Don’t Skip Out On Me may just cause your heart crumple into a little wad of paper, only to find that when you open it back up, it’s formed into a perfect paper airplane sailing across the blue skies from the hand of a boy, sparking the question as to how a bi-cultural man finds a sense of self when he’s been abandoned by his parents? Of course the answer is, he invents it, he invents it with his hands, his fists, and his heart. As to Vlautin, no one anywhere writes as beautifully about people whose stories stay this close to the dirt.
The album is an instrumental, quite lush pleasing and evocative, belaying a heartfelt musical experience to walk hand in hand with Wlautin’s strong but down and out characters, characters who know they’ve gotta get back up on their feet again, but for now, seem perplexed enough to be grateful they’re simply hanging on. Fontaine recognizes this, laying down a series of songs that come across as equally tapped out weary and abandoned, as if in middle age, after reading this book, Fontaine has been able to reach into his very soul and recognize many of these aspects within himself, laying it out with cinematic blissful twanging guitars, a pedal steel, along with light handed drumming, songs that come across as deep rooted musical vignettes about growing older and asking more pointed questions, because the answers suddenly seem to matter all the more.
Don’t Skip Out On Me Now is dusty and satisfying, an album for those times when you just can’t make up your mind as to what you want to drop onto your turntable, or whether to stay or leave from the backdoor while everyone’s asleep, because the demons in your head require a bit of soothing to sort them out, where hopefully they’ll be left by the roadside to hitchhike a ride from someone else.
*** The Fun Facts: Of course the burning question is “Who is Richmond Fontaine.” Willy Vlautin put it this way, “Dave Harding, our bass player, was down in Baja, Mexico and he met this guy from Wyoming, an expatriate of sorts, a guy who had found a large bail of cocaine and hid it out in the desert. He and Dave became friends, his name was Richmond Fontaine. Then Dave went over to his place one night and the man was gone. All his stuff still there, but no one saw him again. No one knew anything.” Willy Vlautin goes on explaining that sorting out one of life’s little mysteries, the inexplicable filing of Richmond Fontaine records in the ‘F’ section of your local record shop along (of course) with Pink Floyd and Ben Folds Five. And it’s a fitting tale. For that’s exactly the kind of story, the unfinished, mysterious fragment that songwriter Vlautin so excels at, making Richmond Fontaine perhaps the most underrated band creating music today.
– Jenell Kesler
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