Ray LaMontagne’s latest album cultivated an unexpected sense of nostalgia in me.
I finally got my hands on God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise by Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs. I’ve been listening to it all afternoon – and although I’ve never heard the full album before, it feels oddly like coming home.
There’s a sense of nostalgia, a sense of déjà vu, which I can’t really explain. Ray LaMontagne has a way of writing songs that feel familiar. I don’t know if it’s the themes he explores or his raspy voice that rings so true, but he is right on the money about so many things. And his truths are presented with such grace and sincerity that you sit up and take notice.
I have his three previous studio albums – Trouble (2004), Till The Sun Turns Black (2006) and Gossip In The Grain (2008). They’re well-worn and overplayed. They occupy the top shelf of my CD collection. I adore him, so I guess I’m biased beyond repair, but the music resonates on so many levels that I’m convinced Ray will attract many new fans with this offering.
From the first track to the last, he explores love, desire, disappointment, self-preservation and belonging with finesse and a raw emotional intensity that never falters. The songs transport you to dusty roads and green pastures; to candlelit rooms and quiet conversations between lovers; to tearful goodbyes at train stations; and evening reveries from rocking chairs on the front verandah.
I recommend Like Rock & Roll And Radio – a beautiful, haunting ballad that examines an ageing relationship. Ray’s hypnotic voice and a heartbroken harmonica are juxtaposed against understated instrumentals to showcase a bittersweet analysis of love through the years. And his lyrics, always so naked in their honesty, linger long after the song is over. Here’s a sample:
Are you still in love with me, like the way you used to be, or is it changing?
Is it deeper over time, like the river that is winding through the canyon?
Are you still in love with her? Do you remember how you were before the sorrow?
Are you closer for the tears? Or has the weight of all the years left you hollow?
Are we strangers now, like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville Show?
Are we strangers now, like rock and roll and the radio?
I also like For The Summer… It sounds like something he wrote while on tour and reveals a man conflicted by his need for travelling artistry and his desire to be at home with the woman he loves. And once again, his simple truth is searing:
It’s been a while since I’ve seen my lady smile
Have I been… Have I been away so long?
I am tired… I am tired
Can I come home for the summer?
I could slow down for a little while
Get back to lovin’ each other
Leave all those long and lonesome miles behind
Ray has worked hard to get where he is now. His modest childhood and early struggles have provided fodder for his first three albums and he makes no secret of the fact that his musical journey involved a few bumps along the road. I’m glad he persevered. I’m glad he’s making music that enriches this life and so many others. Thank you, sir.
The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of This Love Is Over by Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs.
Note: The lyrics reproduced here (from the album God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise by Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs) are the property of the artist(s) in question, and are used for illustrative purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Janine Papendorf likes coffee, chocolate and wine. Not necessarily in that order. She’s married to a nerdy biker and they’re raising Cape Town’s cleverest child. When she’s not building Lego castles or watching old movies, Janine likes to send words into cyberspace. She’s a freelance writer and content strategist based in South Africa’s beautiful Mother City. Witness her obsession with pink flowers on Instagram, or contact her to collaborate on a project.