Since his debut release, Trouble, in 2004, Ray Lamontagne has established himself as one of the brightest stars among the new wave of folk singer-songwriters. His lyrics have a probing depth, his voice, a raspy frailty, while wielding a stage persona of an introvert trapped in an extroverted world. He is a complex man and that complexity shines through in his music.
Thursday night, he wrapped up the final date of his 2012 tour at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. It was delayed gratification for the audience, as Lamontagne was set to perform the previous Wednesday. A nasty case of strep throat forced him to postpone his Atlanta and Nashville dates, the crowd didn’t seem to mind, as the sold out swell from a week ago seemed to shift around their schedules for the rescheduled date.
This evening was pitched as a solo acoustic show, so it was just Ray and his guitar, as well as trusty friend Zach Hickman on the upright bass. The stage design looked like a NYC loft out of the 1930s complete with Victrola record player. There was a lone spotlight beaming down upon Lamontagne. This was a no frills setup, but it did lend the performance an intimacy that betrayed the larger Cobb Energy venue.
Ray Lamontagne’s most recent 2010 release God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise was well represented in the set, as he played the title track, “Beg Steal or Borrow,” “New York City’s Killing Me,” and a rousing bluesy-funk drenched “Repo Man.” Though God Willin’ was his most recent studio effort, he spread the set list evenly over his four albums.
In the previous times I’ve seen Ray in concert, he’s been fairly reserved, not engaging the audience in much conversation. He’s a reserved guy, private in nature, so I always assumed that he wanted to let the music do the talking for him. Last night, he put these assumptions on its ear, using the solo acoustic format to break into several VH1 Storytellers-type moments.
When introducing “Jolene,” he talked about the struggles of an 18-month touring cycle and getting burned out on the music. He mentioned the struggle of getting the creative process flowing again, and shared the details of a conversation with Elvis Costello, where Costello mentioned “Jolene” as one of those songs that would open fans up to Lamontagne.
Earlier in the evening, he was extolling the virtues of Townes Van Zandt and somehow that bled into the utter coolness of Willie Nelson who is evidently the inspiration behind Ray’s distinctive beard. That all preceded him performance of Trouble cast off track “One Lonesome Saddle.” I’ve seen James Taylor do a similar story telling format years ago, and I have to say, I love it. It just gives you a window into the artist’s soul, letting songs that you’ve known and loved for years take on new meaning with the additional layers from the artist’s song journal. Kudos to Lamontagne for giving us a looking glass into the creation of these gems, and as much as it pains me to say, I would have gladly sacrificed a song or two off the set for more story telling.
You could tell that the sickness that sidelined him for a chunk of last week wasn’t completely in the rear view. His voice was beautiful as always, yet not completely tack sharp as we are used to. Regardless, he was a trooper playing a two hour set. He opened the encore with a sultry “You Are the Best Thing” that was a very cool re-imagining of the favorite song.
Ray Lamontagne didn’t disappoint the starved audience at the Cobb Energy Centre. He played a broad set that grabbed favorites from the emotionally gutted “Empty” to his love song to the ex-White Stripes drummer “Meg White.” Pulling the curtain back to show us the inner workings of some of these tunes added another dimension to the evening, and I’d say it was a rousing success. Now its likely time for Lamontagne to go into hibernation once again, putting the guitar and harmonica in moth balls. After a much needed rest, we hope to see him refreshed and exploring new avenues of his talent.
Ray Lamontagne is currently wrapping up the final dates of his U.S. fall acoustic tour. Unfortunately, things have hit a road bump. Tonight’s show at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and tomorrow night’s stop at Nashville’s Ryman Theatre have been postponed. It seems Mr. Lamontagne is battling a case of strep throat that is forcing him to rest up that smoky voice for a few days. The concert dates have been rescheduled for December 5th (Nashville) and 6th (Atlanta) at the respective venues. This weekend’s stops at the Chicago Theatre are unaffected.
All tickets for the cancelled dates will be honored for the new performances. For those with scheduling conflicts, refunds are available at the point of purchase.
Check-in with us next Friday for our review on Ray Lamontagne’s set at Atlanta’s Cobby Energy Centre.
Early this morning, via Twitter, President Obama’s campaign staff released a Spotify playlist of the music that will soundtrack the president’s upcoming reelection campaign. And the artists that made the cut represent quite an eclectic array of musicians.
Wilco, Ray Lamontagne and Arcade Fire round out some surprisingly indie choices, and other artists represent many other genres from soul to country to classic rock. Conspicuously absent, however, are any hip-hop songs.
In all, the playlist contains 28 songs, and includes notable artists like Bruce Springsteen (and his newest single “We Take Care of Our Own,”), Aretha Franklin and Al Green’s legendary “Let’s Stay Together.” President Obama sang a few bars of the latter song at a recent event at the Apollo Theater, surprising many in the audience, including his staff.
Country music also is represented strongly on the playlists, with Dierks Bentley, Sugarland, Darius Rucker, Montgomery Gentry and the Zac Brown Band all making appearances. In fact, Sugarland and Dierks Bentley each get two cuts on the list. The classic rock genre gets contributions from Earth Wind & Fire, Booker T. & the MG’s, REO Speedwagon and the Electric Light Orchestra all contributing music.
More seemingly out-of-place artists on the presidential playlist include No Doubt, Florence and the Machine, Noa and the Whale and Ricky Martin. A little known band called AgesandAges is also on the list, and have been described by local critics as a Portland, Ore. indie-band which features “raw choral pop.”
Other big names are U2 and James Taylor.
Spotify is a streaming music subscription service that was introduced to America last year. Users can sign up for a paid account, which will allow them to stream songs on their computer and/or mobile device with no ads. Users can obtain a free subscription, but the service plays ads between songs. Spotify users that already have an account can log in to the service and view and listen to the entire playlist.
Ray LaMontagne, along with The Pariah Dogs, will be joining Levon Helm Band as co-headliners in eight cities starting in Jacksonville, FL on November 2 and wrapping up in Austin, TX on November 12.
“God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise,” the fourth studio album of Ray LaMontagne’s, debuted in the No. 3 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and in the No. 1 spot on their Digital Album chart with sales of more than 64,000 units.
It is the best sales week of LaMontagne’s career and ties for debut chart position. His album “Gossip in the Grain” also debuted at No. 3. Ray this week also received his first No. 1 on radio on the Mediabase and AAA BDS charts for his song “Beg Steal or Borrow.”
Rock icon and legendary musician Levon Helm is the consummate professional musician. He has played with The Band, Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawks, among others. The voice of Helm’s has provided classic hits like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “The Weight,” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” among many other hit songs. The last show of The Band’s played together was called “The Last Waltz.” It occurred at Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving of 1976. Martin Scorsese filmed the show. It became one of the all time greatest rock documentaries. Levon in 2007 released “Dirt Farm.” It was the first solo studio record from Helm in 25 years. The album received wide acclaim and won a Grammy in 2008 as Best Traditional Folk Album.
The Recording Academy in 2008 also recognized Helm as one of The Band original members with their lifetime achievement award The Americana Music Association awarded him as their Artist of the Year. Helm in 2009 released “Electric Dirt.” In 2010 he won his second Best Americana Album Grammy award in a row.