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Richmond Fontaine

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Playing brittle and evocative alt-country with lyrics that draw powerful and sometimes troubling portraits of life along the margins of the contemporary American West, Richmond Fontaine is the brainchild of singer, guitarist, and songwriter Willy Vlautin, who was born in Reno, NV. When Vlautin was in his early teens, his older brother moved to Los Angeles and became interested in the many roots-influenced bands in the city's punk rock scene. He began sending Willy tapes of bands such as the Blasters, Rank and File, and the Long Ryders, and Vlautin became enamored of their blend of punk energy and C&W twang. At 16, Vlautin formed his first band, but after several years he became disenchanted with the limited opportunities to play original music in Reno, and moved to Portland, OR, in 1994. Not long after he relocated, Vlautin met bassist Dave Harding; discovering their shared enthusiasm for the Blasters, the Replacements, and Hüsker Dü, Vlautin and Harding decided to form a band, and recruited drummer Stuart Gaston to form the first lineup of Richmond Fontaine. After gigging locally, the band recorded their first album, Safety, for the local Cravedog Records label in 1996. Later that same year, the band bought the album back from Cravedog and signed to a larger independent label, Cavity Search Records, who reissued Safety that same year; lots of West Coast touring and a few trips to the East and Midwest followed. In 1997, the band recorded and released their second album, Miles From, and set out on another nationwide tour. By the time their third album, Lost Son, came out in 1999, Sean Oldham had replaced Gaston on drums, and pedal-steel guitarist Paul Brainard, who had played on several cuts on Miles From, had signed on as a full-time member of the band. A live EP, Whiskey, Painkillers and Speed, was released in 2001, and the following year the band completed work on their fourth album, Winnemucca. ~ Mark Deming

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