Ray LaMontagne - Trouble

Ray LaMontagne worked for four years in a shoe factory before he apparently had an epiphany to the sounds of Treetops Flyer by Stephen Stills. Dropping everything he went to the record store and began steeping himself in a musical education that consisted of everything from Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Otis Redding. Quitting his job he dedicated himself to a career in music and Trouble, his album debuted six years later.


The resulting sound is reminiscent of those above influences. The ‘60s folk sound is matched with lyrics that are thoughtful and beautifully crafted.


The most talked about influence is the undeniable similarities to Van Morrison. Even from the very outset to the first and title track Trouble, one can't help but hear the comparisons to Morrison's classic track Astral Weeks. The vocals come straight from the gut like Morrison's and the instrumental experimentation does not limit itself to background, often taking the melody beyond that of the vocals. The blues contained in the music is delicately matched with lyrics like "Trouble's been doggin' my soul since the day I've been born".


Yet its not all blues, songs like Forever My Friend maintain equilibrium by featuring nothing but unchecked optimism. Layered precisely over a background of bongos the lyrics, like "I just think if we build on this forever/maybe we can make this last a lifetime", create an uplifting tone, which easily pulls away from the depression found in the earlier tracks.


Female harmonies feature beautifully in the song Hannah and How Come brings the record a bit up-tempo adding a bit of jazz to the rest of the folk on the album. The compilation was no doubt helped by production done by the somewhat known Elton John, who helped out not only with production but also laying down some instruments for the record.


Trouble mixes up the three-chord singer/songwriter genre and takes it beyond the usual formula. By mixing 60's folk with 70's jazz, sounding a lot like Van Morrison and a little like Otis Redding Ray LaMontagne has created a beautifully crafted and consistent album.


The only criticism might be that all the songs are a bit too consistent. It is only in How Come do we really hear any tempo change and while the occasional lyrics make a departure from the blues to optimism, the recognisable vocals and slow acoustic tempo rarely divert from its usual tone.


Yet as far as debut albums Trouble displays advanced songcraft and sophisticated melodies. Not ground-breaking but the songs are emotive and easy to listen to and enjoy.

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