Archive for October 21st, 2008

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Ray LaMontagne: What Is He?

October 21, 2008

So because a) there is a song called Meg White on it and b) a particular young lady likes his stuff, I downloaded and listened to Ray LaMontagne’s newest album, Gossip In the Grain.

This was a good choice.  It’s a fantastic album.  I’m not going to review it though.  I’m going to figure out what the hell it is/he is.

The first song grabbed me, which is always good, but not in a way I was expecting.  Allmusic compares LaMontagne to Justin Townes Earle, A.A. Bondy, and (<3) Ryan Adams.  So I click play.  And…it’s soul.  Well, not actual soul.  Neo-soul.  Like, neo-Memphis soul.  Hm, what’s an easier way to say this?  I expected Sam Cooke or Al Green to sing, if that gives you an idea.

Here’s an Al Green song, for reference.

Here’s the opening track of Gossip In the Grain.

Can you hear it?  I mean, it’s not a copy, but it’s very soul influenced.  In fact, the thing that it reminded me of most was Donavan Frankenreiter’s Move By Yourself, both the album and the individual song.

However I’ve been assured that’s not Ray’s sound or style.  So I then go to YouTube to further understand this, and pull up the title track from Trouble, which I guess is his most well known album:

A little less soulish, but damn if that ain’t a Frankenreiterish sound.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing.  In fact, this is a very good thing, it works for him.  So, am I missing something?  I really do want to know if I have completely misunderstood Ray LaMontagne.  I mean, not all of his stuff sounds this way, like Hey Me, Hey Mama on the aforementioned Gossip In The Grain.  But it’s there, Let It Be Me proves this isn’t just a coincidence between Trouble and You Are the Best Thing.

Anyways, I highly recommend this album.  It’s fine.  It is the best thing.