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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Recommendation: Ray Lamontagne

I don't write music reviews for a few reasons. For one thing, I don't know anything about music, my half-hearted attempts to learn the alto saxophone notwithstanding. I also don't listen to a lot of new music, especially not since the end of my unheralded college radio career. I've never really been a passionate music fan, following a band through their discography, celebrating their progressions or lamenting creative stasis. In short, I feel unqualified, but I do recommend music I like, at least when it's someone of contemporary relevance that I have just discovered.

With those caveats out of the way, consider this a full recommendation of Ray Lamontagne. I recently purchased his new CD with The Pariah Dogs (terrible name) "God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise." Lamontagne's voice is possibly a divisive topic in music circles, but I like it. It's a little reedy and thin, but with range. It produces an effect that's very appealing, it sounds like it's being perfectly controlled to keep it from getting out of hand. A lot of the songs leave you wanting more, but in a good way. The song makes you think the singer is going to soar or scream, but he never really does, and it's to his credit.

The songs here are not lyrically complex, but they manage to take topics which are well-worn with repetition and make you forget that they are cliche. If stuff like this got more commercial radio airplay, I would think a track like "New York City's Killing Me" might actually reach iconic status as the "New York is impersonal and cold" anthem. (As a commuter, I know I find it anthemic.)

The other real standout track on the album is "Beg, Steal or Borrow" which is just sort of your standard "desperate to get out of a small town, not do what my dad does" kind of song, but that voice manages to raise the song above it's subject matter.

I like Lamontagne, and it's least partly because I find it hard to think of people to compare him too. Of course, that makes it difficult to tell people what he's like. I would suggest listening to "Beg Steal or Borrow" on youtube to gauge your interest.

After reading this you probably understand why I don't do this that often.

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