This is certainly not a music review; I’m no NME journalist, think of it more as an eye opener (unless you already know him of course). Ray LaMontagne has been serenading me on a daily basis for a long time now and I can’t see it ending any time soon. Looking at him you might think he’d been in hibernation, with his lionesque mane and a beard that suggests any searches for razor blades have been fruitless. Everything about him screams humility and surprise at the popularity that now seems to follow him around like a shadow.
Ray’s accomplished, rhythmic guitar playing, coupled with a voice as scratchy as an old vinyl record, make him my favourite musical discovery of the last few years. There’s a growl like quality to his voice, compelling you to hang on his every word whilst feeling all of the emotions that he exposes his audience to. There is so much good music to explore, no two songs are the same and every new album brings new surprises.
Ray has currently released four studio albums: Trouble, Till The Sun Turns Black, Gossip in the Grain and God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise. Each album presents new elements but there is always the consistency of Ray’s beautifully soulful voice and fantastic guitar playing. As someone who has always been a rocker at heart, it’s always refreshing to listen to acoustic artists such as Ray, and his songs are great to play along with. I shall attempt to pick a favourite song from each album; trying to choose just one song from all four albums would be enough to drive me to the brink of insanity. I’m not saying you’ll like him, but it would probably be like an Italian not liking Nutella…
Forever My Friend is the standout for me on the first album. It’s wonderfully jaunty and light-hearted, from the guitar riff all the way through to the lyrics. If you’ve ever been in love with someone then I think you’ll know exactly where he is coming from. It never fails to cheer me up as it starts emanating from my headphones. In contrast, Lesson Learned, my choice from the second album, is a sad tale of a love gone wrong. The opening lines of the song build into a crescendo in which LaMontagne’s voice obtains a quality which I’ve rarely heard from any artist. His soulful scream of anguish is enough to send shivers down your spine.
The whole atmosphere of the song is very melancholy, yet the harmonised guitar parts contrast so well with the lyrics that it is very hard to be brought down. Next we arrive at the opening track of his third album to a menagerie of brass instruments, guitars and drums (and LaMontagne’s voice arriving like an uppercut from Muhammad Ali). Another quirky love song, You Are The Best Thing makes you want to get up and dance no matter what you’re doing. His euphoria is tangible, and makes you wish that one day you’ll feel the same way about someone as Ray’s subject in this song.
Finally we come to The Devil’s in the Jukebox from LaMontagne’s final album. The harmonica, guitars and Ray’s soulful voice create a song to which you can’t help but tap your feet. The combination of harmonica and slide guitar is especially pleasing; a true triumph of a genre that is being lost to the annals of time and, as the final track of the album, a great way to sound off yet another fantastic piece of work.
The man is a genius. I could talk all day about the music of Ray LaMontagne, but I don’t want to ramble on. The best thing about discovering new artists is just that, the discovery, and Ray’s music is something which I can guarantee will not disappoint. There’s definitely something about Ray…