Richmond Fontaine

Like his marvelous novels The Motel Life and Northline, author/musician Willy Vlautin’s long-running quintet Richmond Fontaine is a memorable and affecting vehicle for the Portland-via-Nevada singer-guitarist’s vivid mini-documentaries of fringe-dwellers trying to find their way in the world; the wise and poor choices they make, and the places they’re running toward and escaping (if they ever really can). Around since the mid-’90s, Richmond Fontaine’s combination of rough-edged twang, bar-band backbone, sun-baked guitars, weepy detours, and Vlautin’s gritty, wistful voice owes a bit to Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Gram Parsons, maybe a bit to the ragged roots-punk of Uncle Tupelo and Hootenanny-era Replacements, too. But Vlautin’s singular, evocative storytelling -- painting both heartbreaking and hopeful pictures of the American West and its denizens – helps set the band apart from the pack. That, coupled with the soulful playing of his supporting cast, makes Richmond Fontaine albums like the new We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River something to treasure, and their live shows not to be missed. With Red Jacket Mine, Norman Baker. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

Fri., Jan. 8, 9:30 p.m., 2010

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