In the summer of 1999, Ray Lamontagne took to the stage in Lewiston, Maine for his first live performance. Having quit a factory job to pursue his music after Stephen Stills “Tree Top Flyer” woke him for work on his radio alarm clock at 4am one morning, this classic drifter had recorded a demo of songs that had found it’s way to the owner. Within four shows he was confident with his performing abilities and soon after he was offered a deal with Chrysalis Music Publishing in the US.
If you believe that talent always finds a way through, then Ray Lamontagne’s story will further your belief. In essence a simple song writer, Ray’s debut album, ‘Trouble’, is a paeon to the redemptive power of music that he himself experienced on that early morning in Maine. Centered around a voice that can express heartbreak emotion in a manner that paradoxically compels a belief in a better future, the ten songs that make up ‘Trouble’ weave a tapestry of ordinary lives and extra-ordinary emotions.
Thus, the power of love to heal burns like a beacon through the title track whilst ‘Forever My Friend’ positively hums with the joy of finding your soulmate. But Ray is not just a lovelorn balladeer as ‘How Come’ topically focuses on the state of the nation in a simple protest song that contrasts the potential strength of the people against the evil done in their name. As a self confessed loner (“I knew I wanted to sing, which was really crazy, because I never even talked to anybody”), Ray Lamontagne is in many senses the classic singer-songwriter, using the power of music to communicate.
The album was recorded in just two weeks with producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon) at the helm in the legendary Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. With added embellishment from Jones on piano, bass and drums and Nickel Creek’s Sarah Watkins on fiddle, the bare acoustic tracks formed into the fully formed tunes that you hear on ‘Trouble’. Drawing on Ray’s deep love of music from the aforementioned Stephen Stills through more obvious reference points such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young to Ray Charles and Otis Redding, the pair formed an album that burns with soul, transcending the folk and country roots of the songs to create a modern image of the singer songwriter.
From a rootless childhood with five siblings and a determined mother to his debut album, Ray Lamontagne’s story so far could form the basis of a great American novel.
That ‘Trouble’ is only the first chapter makes that story all the more compelling.
Source: Ray Lamontagne Press Office (August 2004)
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