Willy Vlautin may have published The Motel Life, his first novel, just this spring, but his pained characters have long populated the music of his band, Richmond Fontaine. Just after the publication of the novel, the quartet released Thirteen Cities, a humble, stripped down song-set depicting broken people living broken lives.
While inherently morose, the 14 songs ring with a sense of survival abetted by the warm nuances that emerge from the playing. Whether “Just trying to find the sun coming up somewhere” over mariachi trumpets on “Moving Back Home,” or lamenting that the “Motel life ain’t much of a life, and a motel ain’t much of a home, But I found out years ago that a house ain’t either” over the sparse shuffle of “Westward Ho,” Vlautin’s characters are so real, the smell of their sweat and suffering is inescapable.
Richmond Fontaine is an amicable match of music and writing, and Thirteen Cities stands tall, bathed in dusty sound and tragic beauty.
Thirteen Cities is out now on El Cortez Records.