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Ray Lamontagne - Trouble - RCA

One of XPN’s Artists To Watch for 2004, singer-songwriter, Ray Lamontagne explains how Stephen Stills saved his life. One of six children raised by a single mom who worked hard to make ends meet, Lamontagne – who barely made it out of high school left his family for Lewiston, Maine. Bored, going nowhere in his life and doing some serious soul searching Ray was in Lewiston working long hard hours in a shoe factory when he experienced a musical epiphany.

He explains: "This was a particularly dark and weird time for me. I never saw the light of day for months. One morning, after I'd worked there for about a year, I had my clock set for 4 a.m., like always, and I woke up to this amazing sound coming from the clock radio. It was Stephen Stills, doing a song called 'Tree Top Flyer.' I just sat up in bed and listened. Something about that song just hit me. I did not go to work that day; I went to record stores and sought that album out. It was called Stills Alone. I listened to it, and I was transformed. You don't know how those things happen. I just knew: 'This is what I'm gonna do.' That morning really changed everything — my whole life.”

"So I quit my job. I knew I wanted to sing, which was really crazy, because I never even talked to anybody. I just had this feeling that it was somewhere inside me, and I had to find it and let it out. So I learned the songs on that record and started listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash, then I discovered Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Ray Charles, Otis Redding. I would spend hours just listening to records. Later, I got very intense about singing; I would just sing and sing, and hurt and hurt, because I knew I wasn't doing it right. Over a period of years I taught myself to sing from the gut and not from the nose."

In the summer of 1999, LaMontagne recorded his first demo — a collection of 10 songs. "It was the first time I'd ever heard myself sing," he says. "I hadn't performed. There was a little theater in town that would bring in folk acts. I brought my tape down to the owner and he loved it. He started getting me in opening for people like Jonathan Edwards, John Gorka — traveling folkies. It was hard for me at first, but I'm a really fast learner. By the third or fourth show, I was fine."

Those ten demos ultimately led to Ray’s being signed to a publishing deal. An album was made with producer Ethan Johns before Ray even had a record deal. But the music wouldn’t go unheard before long and soon, record company executives were lining up around the block to sign Ray.

Trouble is about as honest and organic a record you’ll hear these days. Recorded in two weeks, the album features Ray on guitar and vocals and Ethan on bass, drums and piano. Johns also wrote the strings, recorded them and then mixed the record. Like Norah Jones, Ray Lamontagne channels old soul wisdom and has a voice that elicits a beautiful, haunting and otherworldly response from the listener. These are songs of longing, love and desperation. By the end of this excellent collection of ten songs, an spiritual optimism unfolds and you’re hooked on Ray’s singular talents.

Written by Bruce Warren

Release Date: 9/14/2004

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