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Two years after he released Trouble, Ray LaMontagne released this album. In this album he tries something really different to Trouble. This album is less country-folk, R&B roots and more athmospheric and wistful in feel and sound. But dont be mistaken, the songs are just as poignant, strong and effective without all of that.
Most of the songs use a very gentle ensemble of string instruments which gives it the delicate and airy feel that isn't present in Trouble. And his voice too is a bit different in this album. I loved his warm gravelly tones in Trouble and they are still just as lovely in this album, but they are...softer, I think is the best word to use and definitely more subtle.
Lyrically this album is really charming too, although less lyrically reliant than Trouble. Some of the songs still have a ballady, oldy worldy, southern feel like those in Trouble. A great example of this is the song 'Empty', with brilliant evocative and poetic lyrics like 'these cut throat rusty sunsets'. The lyrics also achieve a great poise and grace, loaded with romantic and melancholy tension.
This is a truly unique album which puts him in a catagory all of his own (which is a good thing).
This is the second Album from the little known American singer-songwriter Ray Lamontagne. I first came across his music on our jukebox at work (The Pier, sadly no longer trading but that's a different story), the tracks at work were from his debut album Trouble.
I loved the tracks we played at work so much I bought the Trouble album and played it constantly. My sister then discovered Til the sun turns black and gave me a copy of this album to listen to. Again I loved the album and have been playing it to get in the mood for my 2nd Ray Lamontagne concert in February for his Gossip in the Grain tour (up coming review of that album me thinks).
This album sets up his style, which is very easy listening, very heavy on the acoustic guitar with a slightly rough edge to the music. Ray's voice can be quite whisper like at times and strong at others and is unlike anyone else I have heard.
Til the sun turns black
1. Be here now
The first track starts off with a strong sound, quite a haunting melody with Ray's whisper and humming in all the right places.
This track has a little more to it instrumentally and has Ray singing with a little more gusto. It is quite 'poppy' compared to his usual style and has a few lines that you can't help but sing along to.
This track sounds like it is being performed in a smokey bar; it has that kind of feel to it. It is very simple with just a couple of acoustic guitars and gentle drums. It has a kind of love song feel to it without the lyrics being too mushy, or having much meaning at all to be honest.
4. Three more days
This track is really blues in style with plenty of drums, upbeat guitars and Ray in good voice again; you can even hear a piano/keyboard in places to funk it up a little. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album as you can dance to it!
5. Can I stay
This tune is a love song in my opinion but again not too mushy. This sees Ray return to his whisper to really emphasise certain words and really makes you listen hard. This is another of my favourite tracks that I like to sing along to.
6. You can bring me flowers (when I' dead and gone)
This track has trumpets at the beginning and throughout the song and a slow heavy base line that makes it feel blues style again. I love this one as the lyrics are quite good and moody.
7. Gone away from me
Back to the whisper, this song is about his Love going away from him which makes life feel long, you get the feeling from his voice that this is sad and yet he must tell you about it.
8. Lesson learned
This has a start to it from a country and western film, the kind of guitar music you hear as they look at the empty town. This one is pretty much just Ray and a guitar.
9. Truly, madly, deeply
This has a Spanish sounding guitar playing a very haunting tune, but no vocals to this track. This is my least favourite track on the album but only lasts a minuet or so and does fit in well.
10. Til the sun turns black
The title track. This is a great title track as it sees Ray signing quite softly at the beginning ending with a crescendo, getting louder and louder it shows how much talent this man has.
11. Within you
This sounds a bit like a Lennon song especially as the first lyrics are 'War is not the answer' which is repeated often in this song. This is another that I am not likely to be found signing along to, but I don't skip it either so it can't be that bad! A shame to end the album on this one, but I guess it has to stop somewhere.
A I have said previously I really love this album, if you like easy listening music then this is an album for you to try. I would happily buy any other of Ray's albums based on the strength of his debut album and be fairly sure I would not be disappointed, as this second album shows.
5 stars from me, I can't wait for the next concert!
For anyone interested in Ray Lamontagne he does have his own web page (who doesn't now a days) www.raylamontagne.com, which has various news about his music and so forth. Don't expect to find too much about the man himself, having seen him in concert he comes across as an introverted sort of person and didn't talk to the crowd once, but his music is amazing!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Be Here Now
4 Three More Days
5 Can I Stay
6 You Can Bring Me Flowers
7 Gone Away From Me
8 Lesson Learned
9 Truly Madly Deeply
10 Till The Sun Turns Black
11 Within You