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Ray LaMontagne - Till The Sun Turns Black

Ray Lamontagne, Till The Sun Turns Black

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ACCORDING to acclaimed singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne the songs on Till The Sun Turns Black, his keenly anticipated follow-up to Trouble explore how people deal with each other in particular personal circumstances, sometimes getting it relatively right, other times maiming one another.

“It’s easy to get caught up in your own experiences,” he explains. “They can seem so important. But there are billions and billions of other experiences going on. This album is me trying to look at things beyond myself, wondering what it is to be alive and what it’s all about.”

Ambitious? Pretentious? Very serious? Yes, to a certain degree. But LaMontagne pulls it off without managing to sound as though he’s acquired a newfound sense of his own importance. Till The Sun Turns Black is an excellent follow-up to Trouble that cements LaMontagne’s reputation as one of the best singer-songwriters of the moment.

The album exudes many of the qualities that first helped to get him noticed – brooding acoustic guitar licks, gruff but quietly mesmerising vocals and intelligent lyricism. But it’s augmented by background strings and horns, or the occasional dose of R&B, that prove LaMontagne is developing his sound.

Opening track Be Here Now is a shimmering effort, unfolding against some cinematic strings and a genuinely beguiling piano loop that lends proceedings a dream-like quality. By the time LaMontagne’s husky, whispered vocals kick in to accompany the acoustic guitar licks, you’ll be totally reassured that you’re in for a great listen.

Empty, meanwhile, marries acoustics with more strings to achingly beautiful effect, managing to avoid sounding too melancholy despite the regret that soaks the lyrics.

But just when you think the album may get stuck in a particular style of composition, LaMontagne cleverly changes pace with Three More Days, an upbeat, even funky offering that recalls vintage soul, even Motown with its snappy horns. It’s an excellent effort that serves notice that Lamontagne hasn’t merely created Trouble: Part II.

You Can Bring Me Flowers repeats the trick, dripping in R&B values, rather than the folk-country he’s better associated with. When his battered vocals lament about singing this “sad, sad song”, he could pass for a Blues legend.

Gone Away From Me, on the other hand, marries R&B and folk to endearing effect, the guitar in particular standing out, while the striking riffs of Lesson Learned are guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. One can only imagine the joy of seeing them replayed live.

Truly, Madly, Deeply, meanwhile, is a reflective, beautifully composed guitar instrumental that flirts outrageously with Don’t Cry For Me Argentina at times. It’s a show-stopper that demands you stop whatever you’re doing to appreciate its tender beauty.

While the horns and orchestration on final track Within You help to bring the album to a suitably majestic close, complete with an epic, almost Lennon-esque style of delivery. It’s the album’s crowning achievement and a surefire confirmation that – as previously hinted – LaMontagne is at the forefront of the current singer-songwriter renaissance. He is truly special.

Download picks: Within You, Three More Days, Be Here Now, You Can Bring Me Flowers, Truly, Madly, Deeply, Lesson Learned

Track listing:

  1. Be Here Now
  2. Empty
  3. Barfly
  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