Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This ain't no time for that ball and chain.

Ray LaMontagne's 2004 Trouble is the one of the best album's I have come across in a long time. Yes, my interest was piqued when Taylor Hicks sang the title track on American Idol, but the countless number of Soul Patrollers who recommend this CD know what they are talking about.

While I really enjoyed Taylor's version of "Trouble," that rendition was no indication of what this record would be like. I was actually a bit shocked when I listened to the thirty-second preview on iTunes and it sounded nothing like what I'd heard on television. But I listened to the other previews, and I liked the sound of this guy's voice. It was unique. He doesn't sound exactly like anyone else, but I would say his voice is unique in the same was that Ben Harper's voice is unique.

I read customer reviews. People were fawning all over the album. When I saw that iTunes listed Iron & Wine as one of Ray's few contemporaries, I knew I was onto something. But I still needed to give him the final test. Lyrics. If I look up the lyrics of an artist I'm considering and the words don't do anything for me, I drop them. I know lyrics by themselves aren't much without the music around them, but you know, even some of the best music has a hard time carrying a crap lyric. So I looked ol' Ray LaMontagne up on Let's Sing It, and I wasn't disappointed. Don't know why, but a line from "Hold You In My Arms" did it for me:

"When you kissed my lips with my mouth so full of questions"

It's a nicely turned line, true, but it's not the only one. There are all these people these days and their socially aware songs, and this artist has his, too. And it is quite thought-provoking. It's called "How Come."

"Love can be a liar / And justice can be a thief / And freedom can be an empty cup / From which everybody want to drink"

Yeah, check out that nice way of not ending a sentence with a preposition -- and then the big ol' subject-verb disagreement. Okay, despite all the grammar incongruencies, he's speaking some interesting truth there.

Also, the song "All the Wild Horses" reminds me so much of the score of Brokeback Mountain, I can't convince myself it didn't make a sneak appearance on the soundtrack.

Anyway, every song on this album is good. Right now, I am sort of partial to "Forever My Friend" and "Hold You in My Arms," but I do not dislike any of the songs. I bought the album Thursday afternoon before I went home. I put the songs on my iPod and played straight through to Calvert City. This is profound, you know. I get impatient with new albums with which I am not familiar, but every song held my attention. I even restarted a couple songs to get another go 'round.

Yesterday afternoon, I tried to take a nap, letting this music to put me to sleep 'cause it's that type. Soft, folky, and a little solemn. But I could not get a wink of sleep until I had heard the whole album. It was too good to sleep through.

Also, thanks to Gray Charles, you can download Ray's version of "Crazy" (think Gnarls, not Patsy) here. Yeah, he might sound like he's gotten a shot of novacaine in the tongue every now and then, but what great singer doesn't slur a bit?

So here's the point. I haven't totally absorbed this album yet, but I have enough faith in it to recommend it to you. Plus, "Ray LaMontagne" is a really fun name to say.