At this point, former shoe factory worker Ray LaMontagne has solidified his spot in the canon of great American songwriters, a place he probably never thought he would find himself after first picking up a guitar with a penchant for bluesy folk and a loose idea of how to sing. His live EP, Live - Fall 2010
, even just in name, captures a bit of the simple honesty that makes Americana twang a bit more sympathetic even with the adventurous ear of 2010. LaMontagne spins a new mythology in the genre. His songs, from the now-standard melody of "Trouble" to the tunes found here, all feel too timeless, too real to be a product of the world we live in today, but that's part of the magic.
Thinking about the situation, it makes sense: part of the mythology, the mystique, is LaMontagne himself. A shy person by nature, he rarely gives interviews or allows himself to be filmed. Over-saturation of media stars, the "Lady Gaga" era of musicians appearing everywhere from your commercials to your email to your Twitter feed, has led to an overdose of reality. LaMontagne is the anti-Kanye, and in some ways, is more interesting for it. He's a bearded introvert who lives in a farm house with his family and chooses to stay as far from the spotlight as possible, allowing us to create a world around him with our imaginations rather than deconstructing his last Matt Lauer interview. Sure you can catch him here and there, but it always feels anachronistic, like trying to ask a 1960s Mick Jagger how he feels about Facebook poking. It's brilliant, but in the way only a natural, unintentional behavior can propel someone to become a character in the minds of their fans.
Ray LaMontagne's compelling story, coupled with his decidedly classic American feel, have made his music a solid part of the lexicon of music, in any era. The funny thing is, even if he wins one of those Grammys (he's up for three for his most recent studio release), you can almost picture him leaving it tucked away in a cupboard somewhere, to occasionally revisit from time to time.
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Ray LaMontagne on Myspace