Album Reviews

Ray LaMontagne – Trouble

(14th Floor) UK release date: 19 June 2006

Ray LaMontagne - TroubleYou’d think that an album entitled Trouble would be more appropriate as a tongue-in-cheek Robbie Williams joke than the debut of a New Hampshire born folk singer – but that’s exactly what it is, and it’s brilliant.

Ray LaMontagne’s life is an almost romantic rags to riches story. He was one of six children (from various fathers), travelled from Utah to Maine wherever his mother could find a roof (living in a variety of dwellings, from cars to a chicken coop), struggled in school (due to being a self-confessed misfit) and had a dead-end job in a shoe factory. However, upon hearing Stephen Stills‘ Treetop Flyer he had a revelation and, leaving behind hardship and strife, decided to pursue a career in music.

Without meaning to sound cruel, thank goodness for us that the bearded, shy LaMontagne did struggle throughout his life, because Trouble is brimming with ballads chokka with references and themes, such as hope, vulnerability, heartbreak and shelter, inspired by his earlier experiences.

Title track Trouble (the first single off the album) is one such number. It is folk rock with a bluesy feel and tells how LaMontagne was ‘saved by a woman’ from troubles and worries.

There isn’t a turkey on the album, but after Trouble the most sparkling stars are the vibrant Forever My Friend, the up-tempo How Come and the beautiful All The Wild Horses, which perfectly ends the album and has the inkling of a film soundtrack.

The whole of Trouble feels very genuine and honest – the lyrics are emotive and from the heart, such as “Who am I to tell her? Who am I to play God?” Adding to this, each of the melodic, story laden songs are simply produced, with voice, basic acoustic guitars, drums and some strings – perfectly in keeping with its folksy genre.

But there is more to LaMontagne than his excellent song writing capabilities. The cherry on top of the Trouble cake is his captivating voice. Full of honest vulnerability, he has mesmerizing, sandpapery vocal chords, much like a cross between Joe Cocker and Van Morrison, the later to whom he has been compared.

Trouble is as touching as Damien Rice‘s O. It is a stunningly haunting debut album filled with rousing ballads you’ll want to listen to again and again.

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Ray LaMontagne – Till The Sun Turns Black
Ray LaMontagne @ Union Chapel, London
Ray LaMontagne – Trouble