Ray LaMontagne: Just Passing ThroughOctober 17, 2017
With Ethan Gruska opening.
Ten years ago Ray LaMontagne released his first album, TROUBLE, the gold-certified start to a fiercely ambitious, Grammy Award-winning, critically praised career that’s encompassed three more albums, several EPs, a slew of soundtrack compilations and arresting live performances fronting a variety of ensembles.
And LaMontagne is still having fun all these years later — and with his fifth album, SUPERNOVA, maybe more fun than ever. SUPERNOVA indeed bursts with a spirited bonhomme and a rocking, technicolor-tinged energy that’s different from its four predecessors. The title track and first single is a grooving, Nuggets-style burst of neo-psychedelia in which LaMontagne’s high register sounds hoarse with pleasure over the explosive power of love. “She’s the One” is a bold, punchy, swirling rocker, while “Lavender,” “Julia” and “Smashing” are soaked in lava lamp melodies and day-glo grooves. LaMontagne and the crack band Auerbach assembled for the SUPERNOVA lay back into rustic, rootsy territory during “Ojai” and “Drive-in Movies,” while “Airwaves” rides a light samba rhythm and “No Other Way” is a love ballad replete with trippy images. And “Pick Up a Gun” is SUPERNOVA’s noir epic, from its martial cadence to its airy ambience and lush keyboard textures.
LaMontagne is now looking forward to giving SUPERNOVA’s songs an airing on stage. He’s put together a new band, and he anticipates a new wrinkle for his performances as well. “They give me a chance to play more electric guitar, which I love to do,” LaMontagne says. “But I’ve always had such good players on stage, and so many of my songs are keyed into what I’m doing on the acoustic guitar. So I’m really looking forward to being able to set the acoustic down for half the set, finally. That will be a nice feeling.”
At once minimalist and expansive, Ethan Gruska’s solo debut, the luminous Slowmotionary, embraces a range of sounds and styles, with influences from jazz and folk to ambient and alternative, Slowmotionary integrates everything into a whole that is original, idiosyncratic, and embraces its own imperfections. He made room for a little serendipity in his creative process, sensing that too calculated an approach would diminish the impact of the music. That spontaneity provided a wonderful counterpoint to his thoughtful and revealing lyrics.