First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2005, Volume 12, #6
Written by John Metzger
By now, the story of Ray LaMontagne is a familiar one: Awakened by the sound of Stephen Stills' Treetop Flyer blaring from his clock radio, the former factory worker found religion in music. In combing through his local record store bins in an attempt to find a copy of Stills Alone, the outing on which the tune appeared, he also discovered the works of Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell, and Ray Charles. For many, this might have been the end of the story, but for LaMontagne, it proved to be a new and rather impressive beginning. His initial 10-song demo immediately attracted the attention of Chrysalis Music Publishing, which, in turn, paired him with producer Ethan Johns. Together, they crafted Trouble, an album so haunting, so aching, and so lovely that it sparked a bidding war among the major labels.
With the exception of the airy, percussive undercurrent of Forever My Friend, the bulk of Trouble saunters along quite slowly, and its subtle arrangements provide an intimate framework for LaMontagne’s heart-on-his-sleeve musings. Indeed, leaving the music uncluttered was, perhaps, Johns’ wisest decision, and in essence, he made LaMontagne’s emotive vocals — which, at times, recall Tim Buckley (Burn); Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison (the title track); and a blend of Joe Cocker, Stephen Stills, and Dave Mason (How Come) — the focal point of the effort. Indeed, in the hands of a lesser collaborator, Trouble might not have grown into such a warm and inviting affair, and although the material is undeniably straightforward folk-rock, there’s an old-fashioned sense of heartfelt honesty to LaMontagne’s performance that confers upon the album the poignant urgency for which it strives. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Trouble is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box