Richmond Fontaine have a name that sounds like a solo artist, but don’t be fooled: this is a band through and through. You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, their tenth album, is another gorgeous, heavily-laden alt-country sprawl. The band is accompanied for the first time by members of The Delines and The Decemberists. Available in regular editions, and in a deluxe LP version with exclusive bonus CD.
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6/10 The Doc 4th May 2016
Richmond Fontaine are probably the best exponents of greyscale, down-at-heel Americana that the genre has produced in the last twenty years, so it was a sad day when they announced they were going to call it a day after this album. For long-standing fans the news didn't come a much of a surprise; it's been five years since their last album - the patchy The High Country - and with Willy Vlautin's increased focus both on his novel writing and brilliant new country-soul act the Delines, it was obvious that something had to give.
It would have been nice for them to finish with a flourish before riding away into the sunset, but the songwriting here is tired - gentle acoustic strummings, chiming leads, lyrics dealing with all the usual themes - and it really does sound in places like their hearts just aren't in it. Sure, it's easy on the ear and there's not a lot to not like about it if you're a fan of this kind of thing, but there's just not an awful lot to recommend it either; Willy claims that the lyrics are an attempt to bring closure to characters from old songs, but the stories are too familiar; really he's just going over old ground and there's not a lot of hiding it.
It's a shame to see them go out like this as they've been a wonderful band over the years, and for a long, long time it seemed like they were incapable of making a record that was anything less than brilliant, but it's a raised whiskey glass and a tearful adios, for now; just don't remember them for this, remember them for Post To Wire and the Fitzgerald instead.
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