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Baker's Dozen

Escape To The Country: Willy Vlautin Of Richmond Fontaine's Favourite LPs
John Freeman , April 6th, 2016 09:55

Following the release of Richmond Fontaine's tenth and final album, You Can't Go Back If There Is Nothing To Go Back To, the singer and author talks to John Freeman about his favourite albums of storytelling escapism


The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God
The Pogues changed my life in the same way that a number of roots rock bands like Green On Red, The Long Ryders or Rank And File changed me. They took traditional music and made it their own. I had always grown up loving traditional country music, but I didn't like the politics behind it and I didn't like the guys I knew who listened to it.

When I was a kid, my dad went to England and came back with The Pogues' Rum Sodomy & The Lash. That's how I found out about them. I became a huge fan because they had the heart of punk rock and were in love with traditional music.

The reason why I like If I Should Fall From Grace With God is that I felt it was the peak of them having the punk heart – on a song like 'Bottle Of Smoke' – while also having a romanticism about them. That album incorporated different styles of music; 'Turkish Song Of The Damned' had a Middle Eastern feel, they sang a song about south Australia, while 'Fiesta' had a Spanish vibe.

I was a kid. I had never been out of the country. I had been to two states in the US. All of a sudden, I was hanging out with these wild Irish guys, who were passionate young men playing Irish music influenced by world music. It became a huge record for me – a record that meant you could take traditional music and make it into whatever you wanted.

When I was growing up with punk rock, the romanticism of music took a back seat. A song like 'Fairytale Of New York' is a very romantic tune. It is bigger than [something by] an angry young kid, singing in his basement. Even when I was trying to act tough as a kid, I was always a fan of the classic ballad and this album has huge songs that could have been written by the great songwriters – but they would have been written by the great songwriters whilst on a drunken bender.

My buddy and I would play drinking games to this record. When we played 'Fiesta' we'd jump on a table we had and we'd break the table. At the end of the night we'd play the ballads – but neither of us had girlfriends – and we'd just dream we were in Ireland or any place that was better than we were. I have always seen music as an escape.

I was doing a reading for Motel Life in London in a bar that used to be Shane MacGowan's drinking bar. I was really nervous in case he was there – I assumed he practically lived there – and I hadn't done many readings at that point. I did the reading and afterwards Shane comes up to me and fakes trying to steal a book from the merch stall, which I thought was really sweet. Then, he kissed my hand. I swear to god, I have never had my whole arm feel like it had been electrified. It was like being kissed for the first time. I couldn't sleep the whole fucking night – I just walked around London thinking "I met Shane MacGowan and he didn't make fun of me and he kissed my hand." It was one of the greatest nights I have ever had.