Saturday, May 30, 2009

Featured Music - Ray LaMontagne

So I kind of suck at blogging... mostly because I spend about 8 hours a day on a computer at work, and it's the last thing I feel like doing when I get home. But anywho...

In the second installment of Featured Music, we move from one bearded troubadour to another: Ladies and Gentlemen.... Ray LaMontagne. (lah-mon-tain)

LaMontagne took a rather unlikely journey to his musical career - he was already in his late 20s before he started playing music. At the time, he was a loner working in a shoe factory, who - as a result of a somewhat sketchy upbringing and a lot of moving around - had barely graduated highschool. But after being inspired by a Stephen Stills song on the radio, he picked up the guitar and started writing music. Now he has three albums out - Trouble, Till the Sun Turns Black and the newly released Gossip in the Grain. As a performer, introverts such as myself can relate well to LaMontagne. He is rather reclusive, almost painfully shy, and rarely gives interviews. He's admitted he sometimes has to force himself to leave his hotel room while on tour, and has been known to perform shows in the dark to separate himself from the crowd.

Ray's signature sound is his raspy voice - often drawing comparisons to Joe Cocker among others. Except LaMontagne manages to enunciate everything beautifully. He milks the emotion from every syllable, but without making it feel overdone. Musically, he's been compared to a host of people - Van Morrison, Tim Buckley, etc. For some reason he reminds me the most of Jim Croce. I'm not going to claim that everything he does is magic. Some of his songs make me go "Meh, that was ok." But some of them are pure gold. Here's the song that first caught my attention - from Trouble, this is "Jolene":

Ray gained a bit of popularity when a couple of American Idols covered songs off his first album - Taylor Hicks performed the title track "Trouble", and Kelly Clarkson performed "Shelter". I have to admit I discovered LaMontagne first and found out about that afterwards. But anyway, here's an old, rough, extended version of Ray singing "Trouble" followed by a great version of "Shelter":

I know I'm practically linking to his entire first album, but what the heck - here's the last track, a beautiful ballad called "All the Wild Horses":

And in case you think he can't rock out, here's a song from his second album, Till the Sun Turns Black. It's called "Three More Days":

And for the pacifist in all of us, this is "Within You":

I haven't had much of a chance to acquaint myself with his newest album, Gossip in the Grain, but here are a couple good ones - "You Are the Best Thing", and "Let it Be Me":

So there you go, Ray LaMontagne. Check him out.


Lani said...

Hmmm... I don't know... I think he kinda looks like you! :P JK. Seriously, what is it with you and all these hairy old guys? :) Ok, now I'm just giving you a hard time. I will totally listen to the songs now.... and then give you a real opinion.

Sarah said...

I have liked LaMontagne for a while now, since I heard "Trouble" on the radio... although I assumed he was just covering it for some reason. He has an "old" sound in a great way. Love his voice and get excited every time my radio station plays him. That means I should probably get a cd, huh?