Yippee-ki-yay. The second leg of the Ray LaMontagne tour is FINALLY up on his website. I’ve only been checking, like, every day:
09/14 – Nokia Theatre, Grand Prairie, TX
09/15 – Austin City Limits Festival, Austin, TX
09/16 – Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston, TX
09/17 – House of Blues, New Orleans, LA
09/19 – Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK
09/20 – The Blue Note, Columbia, MO (free show!)
09/22 – City Market, Kansas City, MO
09/23 – City Lights Pavillion, Denver, CO
09/27 – SDSU Open Air Theatre, San Diego, CA
09/28 – The Wiltern LG, Los Angeles, CA
09/29 – The Wiltern LG, Los Angeles, CA
09/30 – Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA (what a great venue)
10/04 – Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR
10/05 – Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA
For the rest of the tour dates in progress, check his website here. If you can catch him live, by all means do. As I enthusiastically said to anyone who would listen to me last April after I saw him in San Fran, it was possibly one of the best, most stirring & heartfelt and stunningly beautiful shows I have ever seen. He looks as uncomfortable on stage as all get out, but man, what music emerges. So (large hint to family) – tickets to the Denver show, that’s all I want as a birthday present.
Also, thanks to an absolutely fantastic little birdie, I have a rough copy of the new Ray LaMontagne album, called Till The Sun Turns Black, due out August 29. While there’s some really superb material on here, overall it is . . . a lot gentler and less folk-rock than I thought it would be. There are times when I wondered if I was listening to the Princess Bride soundtrack (although, that was by Mark Knopfler, so not entirely a bad thing).
Even though LaMontagne is working with Ethan Johns again as a producer this time, the overall feel is swirling, more fairy-tale-like, and very different to me than Trouble. The prominent immediacy of the percussion from Johns and the out-in-front strumming of Ray’s acoustic guitar is largely muted; instead, many songs experiment more with strings, trumpets, even a slightly uncomfortable flute solo. I also feel like Ray’s voice is mixed lower and often not as distinctive and soaringly-rough and cracking as it was on the debut. It is still as beautiful as Ray always is, but I miss the barely-caged passion and furious strumming of Trouble.
He does get pretty downright bluesy and funky with a couple of the songs, and there are some lovely, lovely strings that downright devastate me. Here is the tracklisting, and since I can’t share any of the album tracks, there are links to some live versions from a previous post:
01. Be Here Now (an interesting choice for opening track, clocking in at over 6 minutes, swirling, building, almost ethereal)
02. Empty (live version from Bonnaroo, album version is more restrained)
03. Barfly (intro melody sounds like a slowed down “Walk On The Wild Side”)
04. Three More Days (very bluesy, Memphis horns on the album. Live version here)
05. Can I Stay? (a little too slickly smooth for me on the album, but I love this song, absolutely gorgeous. A live version is here)
06. You Can Bring Me Flowers (another bluesy riff song with Ray’s smoky rough vocals cutting through the haze. Great harmonica licks, but an ill-advised flute solo straight out of Anchorman at the end)
07. Gone Away From Me (lyrics of your standard wrenching love lost, very simple verses, folksy structure. Album version has addition of brass backing. Used to be called Life Is Long, live version here)
08. Lesson Learned (Opening instumental similar to Empty, lyrics that recall “Burn” from Trouble, one of the few tracks on the new album where he lets his vocals GO, he wails at the beginning. Live version here)
09. Instrumental (this is the one I can’t get – sounds like it belongs on the Princess Bride film score. Maybe I am missing something.)
10. Till The Sun Turns Black (Pretty faithful to the live version, but with the addition of delicate strings. Live version here)
11. Coda (this, for me, is really a standout track on the album. A lovely cadence, layered “la la la” vocals, the feeling of a closing refrain)
I was hoping for the inclusion of a few other GREAT older songs he’s been playing live, such as “Still Can’t Feel The Gin,” “You Should Belong to Me,” “I Can Get High (All By Myself)“ and the frickin’ fantastic “Heaven Is A Honky Tonk,” but not this time around. Maybe the next one . . . *sigh*
BONUS: Ray LaMontagne interview from Atlanta’s 92.9 here, (with a live performance of three songs, ones from Trouble).