Americana UK favourites The Delines received much critical acclaim for their wonderfully soulful 2019 album ‘The Imperial’. Rightly praised, this was an album that set a very high standard for cinematic storytelling and song-writing, justifiably garnering ‘Best Band’, ‘Best Live Act’ and ‘Best Album’ accolades in our 2019 readers’ poll. A lot has changed since then, of course. One thing that has evidently remained the same is The Delines’ ability to deliver engaging, thoughtful music. We are delighted to premiere ‘Kid Codeine’, the third single from highly-anticipated upcoming album ‘The Sea Drift’. As ever, Willy Vlautin and the band have crafted a beautiful song; layer by layer the sound builds around a bright, warm strum and the gorgeous melody of Amy Boone’s characterful voice. When the insistent percussion kicks in, the song takes us away on a sonically upbeat musical journey – it’s utterly absorbing.
Willy Vlautin, formerly of Richmond Fontaine, is also known for his fine works of literature, such as the compelling ‘The Motel Life’ and ‘Northline’ (complete with its limited edition CD soundtrack). He has a gift for conjuring characters and situations full of real emotional resonance. Carefully realised descriptions of people and places ground his stories, offering hope in bleak circumstances, and through his words Vlautin holds up a mirror to modern America. All of that narrative talent is brought into his lyrical song-writing. ‘Kid Codeine’ is like a poetic, condensed version of novel, centred around well-drawn characters: “People call her Kid Codeine // Owns a lounge off Lombard Street // Stuck by her boxer even when he went punch drunk and broke // Heard just buying milk she wears a full length fake fur coat.” You can see it all unfold like a movie in your mind, helped by Boone’s storytelling vocal. The video, starring Boone, takes us on a journey around Portland and these real-life scenes add to the authenticity and cinematic drama of the song. Though it feels like fiction, the song is actually based on real people. Back in the 1990s, Vlautin’s former band Richmond Fontaine met an intriguing couple while on tour. All these years later, they have provided the real-life inspiration for ‘Kid Codeine’.
Vlautin explains the song’s background: “Years ago in Los Angeles, Richmond Fontaine was playing at a club downtown called Al’s Bar and after the gig the bartender invited us to a strip joint. She was maybe thirty-five and had a big bouffant and a twenty-one-year-old boyfriend who never said a word. Nothing. It was almost like she had him on a chain. She took us to a place where the dancers come to your table. The woman who came to ours was a friend of hers but a junkie and nodded out and crashed into our table. Drinks spilled everywhere but the bouffanted bartender got hers out in time and she and her boyfriend got up and she said, ‘I gotta run but bet the third horse in the fifth race at Hollywood Park tomorrow.’ Man oh man, she was really wild and she drove the coolest car and nothing seem to phase her. I hadn’t thought of her in years but during the time I was writing The Sea Drift tunes I just woke up one morning and she came to me and I wrote the song.
The video is set in my favourite neighbourhood of Portland, St. Johns. A neighbourhood in the midst of a big gentrification swing. Amy was brave enough to be on camera and we tried to hit the old haunts, a lot of them closed down and ready to be bulldozed. I’m a big boxing fan and I wanted to incorporate Andy Kendall ‘The Scappoose Express’, one of the most famous boxers of the area. The fight we used was his title shot against world light heavyweight champion Bob Foster. Kendall got knocked out in the fourth but still what a feat. We were lucky enough to work with Gregg Schmitt, who’s one of the coolest cinematographers in the NW, and also a great editor in Zach Jones, who ran with the idea that both characters, Kid Codeine and ‘The Scappoose Express’, are now just ghosts to a city in a major economic boom and transformation.”
Unfortunately, the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic and the new Omicron variant have meant that all the band’s February UK gigs in support of the new album will be delayed until May, July and November, including the exclusive London Rough Trade East concert and signing event, which should now go ahead in May. Revised tour dates are below. We can console ourselves, though, with the release of the new album ‘The Sea Drift’ on 11th February, featuring more of Vlautin’s stories told through the voice and perspective of Amy Boone. Vlautin explains where the friends were coming from: “The idea for the ‘The Sea Drift’ began with Amy and my mutual love of Tony Joe White. We used to have conversations about his records and she’d always joke, ‘Just write me ‘Rainy Night in Georgia.’ Jesus, what a tall order, but I guess in my own way I started trying.” Boone adds: “I think the songs on ‘The Sea Drift’ have the kind of ‘realness’ that Tony Joe White was after – romantic realism. When Willy would talk to me about his new batch of songs set on the Gulf Coast, I remember thinking, ‘is he talking about The Delines’ next record or is he writing a screenplay?'” On the strength of the beautifully arranged singles we’ve heard so far, this will be another early contender for album-of-the-year lists. Producer John Morgan Askew, who worked on the first two records, is once again involved along with the excellent players in the band. He has, once again, captured a timeless sound that achieves that rare feat of feeling familiar and yet new.
This is the first set of new songs since Boone was involved in a terrible car accident in 2016, which led to years in hospital and inevitably delayed ‘The Imperial’. Such was the severity of physical pain and mental anguish following the incident, it wasn’t certain that Boone would be able to carry on in the band. That experience is part of her now, as Vlautin explains: “‘The Sea Drift’ sessions were also the first time since Amy had been injured that she felt strong and confident in the studio, and you can really hear it on this record. There’s strength to her voice, the strength of someone who’s overcome a lot of trauma and pain.” Indeed, we can hear this range of emotion and soulful intensity. Check it out.
Revised Tour Dates:
April 19 Oslo (Asker), NO – Kulturhus
April 20 Stockholm, SE – Obaren
April 21 Goteborg, SE – Pustervik
April 22 Malmo, SE – Folk & Rock
April 23 Odense, DK – Dexter
April 24 Copenhagen, DK – Stairway
April 25 Hamburg, DE – Nochtspieiler
April 26 Oberhausen, DE – Zentrum Altenberg
April 27 Hamont-Achel, BE – Aha
April 28 Venlo, NL – Grenswerk
April 29 Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso Noord
April 30 Belfast, UK – venue tbc
May 1 Kilkenny, IE – Kilkenny Roots Fest
May 2 Dublin, IE – Liberty Theatre
May 3 London, UK (TBC)
May 4 Glasgow, UK – St Luke’s Church
May 5 Nottingam, UK – Metronome
May 6 Bury, UK – The Met
May 7 London, UK (TBC)
July dates will feature Bristol, Newcastle, Pocklington