25 April 2009

Somebody to Love: Mister Ray LaMontagne

First off, this man does not take a bad picture.

Second and most importantly, this man is an incredible, genuine performer of a caliber that rarely gets to see the light of day. While I get a lot of flack for loving sensitive singer/songwriters that some believe "all sound the same", LaMontagne could absolutely not be mistaken for anyone else. There's an intense masculinity to his voice that some of his other male contemporaries are missing which I think usually enhances the 'sissy' stigma even more to this kind of music. I also kind of love the moniker "Backwoods Van Morrison" Rolling Stone branded on him awhile back. While these other cats are out making their record labels and whoever else happy, LaMontagne is sticking to his old school flavor but keeping the beats consistently modern and once again: I'm confused as to why we don't hear them more often.

Hey, RCA: I want to see more Ray Charles LaMontagne. Immediately.

Below is an article from Rolling Stone that originally appeared in the January 22nd issue. It doesn't say too much directly about his music but it says so much about him that you get a great feel for the texture of all his albums thus far.


David Browne

Not too long ago, Ray LaMontagne was strumming and emoting his way through his harrowing 2005 breakthrough song, "Trouble," before a rapt, sold-out crowd at Radio City Music Hall. Today, on break from his tour behind the new Gossip in the Grain, he's back home in his farmhouse in the wilds of western Maine. A storm is coming, and with winter settling in, LaMontagne's audience will shrink dramatically. In fact, most days he won't see anyone other than his wife, Sarah, his two sons and the sheep, goats and chickens they keep out in the barn. "Nobody comes nosin' around," LaMontagne says of his 85-acre spread. "No one cares out here. You can carve out a little space and make things work."

Gossip in the Grain — which amps the spare Nick Drake-meets-Van Morrison sound of his first two albums with blasts of Memphis-style horns — was written on the property, and its rural vibe is evident in the many references to crows, cows and foxes. "I don't have a ton of distractions," LaMontagne says. "Staying busy around the place frees up the subconscious to do whatever the hell it's gonna do."

In the 1970s, Norman Mailer used the property as a base for fishing, hunting and ski adventures, but LaMontagne hasn't come across evidence of his visits. "We did find a lot of beer cans in the walls," he says. "Malt liquor."

LaMontagne gutted the house, which had been abandoned for years. He also turned a small horse barn into his work space — packing it with the vintage typewriters, motorcycles and Victrolas he admires and fixes up as a hobby. "A typewriter didn't have to look beautiful, but they made it look beautiful," he says. "There's a certain level of craftsmanship there. It's like an old car."

Having lived in Maine since his teens, LaMontagne has a "love-hate relationship" with the state: "The paper industry makes a mess of the woods. It looks like Hiroshima — just flat." And he wouldn't mind having more musicians to play with. But Maine is home. "In the summertime, driving just north of here on a motorcycle into the mountains, there's nothing like it," he says. "It's stunningly beautiful."

He's gotten a little rougher since this performance from 2007 but this is another of my all time favorite songs. It's eerie, magical, and so, so smooth.

Forever My Friend - Ray LaMontagne

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