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Review: Richmond Fontaine and Richard Buckner, The Duchess, York
MORE heavyweights of Americana gracing the stages of York. An unspecific sat nav incident resulted in a late start. All later took the blame, but sadly Devonian Peter Bruntnell’s set paid the ultimate price, a missed opportunity to see one our finest songwriters.
Richard Buckner is a true cult figure, feted not only by Richmond Fontaine but also Bon Iver. A towering, yet mostly unknown figure, Buckner’s distinctive set was hard work at times. Yet, drawing on songs from his 18-year career, he showed a focus and intensity that makes Iver look like an adolescent.
Blues And Wonder, the kick-off from his 1994 debut, has aged into a ringing song of regret, while Traitor from his latest showed off a more impressionistic haze over which Buckner growled, gargled marbles and sang in his inimitable fashion. Like Jolie Holland, Buckner is not for the faint hearted and perhaps why he has to combine working on construction sites with recording.
Richmond Fontaine are past masters at sad songs too, with Willie Vlautin’s novelist’s eye for a killer line. Playing as a due with Steve Eccles, the pair were also in fine form. Eccles’s metal posturings were reined in and his imaginative accompaniment provided many the musical highlights of the evening.
Playing recent songs from their acoustic album The High Country, the title track and Lost In The Trees got their set off to a strong start. Vlautin’s musical stories of human frailty struck a chord, although his singing is another acquired taste. The encores saw the trio of acts perform old country songs, including Merle Haggard’s I Can’t Hold Myself In Line and Townes Van Zandt’s strikingly good Still Looking For You. It left you wishing they could find their way into a studio together.