Ray LaMontagne - Till The Sun Turns Black

Paul Cook 11/06/2007

Rating: 4/5

Ray Lamontagne's voice is deliciously traditional and gentle in his second full length album 'Till the Sun Turns Black' and compliments brilliantly the calming instrumentals. For a born and bred musician this album would be a prided body of work but for Lamontagne who, up until 8 years ago used to work 65 hour weeks in a shoe factory it is an awe inspiring symbol of one man's inspiration and passion.

A most enjoyable opening, 'Be Here Now' soothes and surrounds the listener into the album with a seamlessly plucked harmony and a voice that melts. Masterfully written are both the music and lyrics and the voice behind it is nothing short of the being one of the best voices around today. Here, however, the voice is not the only defining and captivating factor. It's as much about the music as it is about the voice. Southern flavours find their way fittingly into tracks such as 'Truly, Madly, Deeply', 'Lesson Learned' and 'Gone Away From Me' and make for a worldly, all rounder of a follow-up for the folk sensation.

Some of the tracks do feel a slight bit lazy. Lamontagne's voice finds itself in need of more musical accompaniment at times. 'Can I Stay' feels bare and lacking in that emotional edge that made hits like 'Trouble' and 'Jolene' so deep and involving. However, the variety of instruments and that slight step outside of the safety zone of country soul in this album is refreshing and only inspires one to listen to everything Lamontagne's done. 'Three More Days' boldly springs into life the jazzy taint to his soul and with trumpet and sax' stabs livening the whole album up it steps up a gear from here on out.

The title track is a slow, gentle and brilliantly lifting ballad of orchestral backing and typically anguished vocals. Violins and guitars strangely merge into an emotional track of faded memories, loneliness and sorrow and is classic Lamontagne. The final track too is an orchestral beauty with a more purposeful strum of the guitar and mellowing lyrics. Simplicity and passion combine here to produce one of the most gorgeously sung, intelligently written albums of the year.