New England singer/songwriter who gained praise from fans and critics for his raspy, heartfelt vocals and diverse material.
With a voice that recalls a huskier, sandpapery version of Van Morrison and Tim Buckley, Ray LaMontagne joins such artists as Iron & Wine in creating folk songs that are alternately lush and intimately earthy. The songwriter was born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1973; his parents split up shortly after his birth, and his mother began a pattern of moving her six children to any locale that could offer her employment and housing.
As a result, LaMontagne grew up as the perennial new kid in school (when and if he went to school at all). He did graduate high school, however, and found himself working in a shoe factory in Maine when he heard Stephen Stills' "Tree Top Flyer" on the radio.
The song amounted to an epiphany for LaMontagne, who made up his mind on the spot to become a singer and musician. By the summer of 1999, LaMontagne had put together a ten-song demo tape that soon found its way into the hands of Jamie Ceretta at Chrysalis Music Publishing. The publishing house signed the young songwriter and teamed him with producer Ethan Johns, resulting in LaMontagne's debut album, Trouble.
The record was picked up by RCA and released in the fall of 2004, impressing critics with such songs as the title tune, "Trouble," and the cinematic style of pieces like "Narrow Escape." A follow-up album for the RCA label, Till the Sun Turns Black, appeared in 2006 and widened LaMontagne's palette by incorporating horns and strings. He also placed songs in multiple American television shows, including [muzeItalic]ER[/muzeItalic], [muzeItalic]Bones[/muzeItalic], and [muzeItalic]One Tree Hill[/muzeItalic].
Gossip in the Grain followed in 2008, also with Johns in the production chair; his biggest commercial success to that point, it debuted at number three on the American charts and again featured several songs later heard on television shows. In 2012, LaMontagne returned with his fourth studio album, God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise. His first album without producer Ethan Johns, the session was produced by LaMontagne at his home studio and was the first with a billing for his backing band the Pariah Dogs, including bassist Jennifer Condos, guitarist Eric Heywood, and drummer Jay Bellerose.
It peaked at number three on the American album charts, and earned LaMontagne his first Grammy win, for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Early in 2014, RCA announced that LaMontagne's fifth album would be released. Produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Supernova was issued in at the end of April.
~ Steve Leggett.