I am a sporadic purchaser and devourer of British ‘serious’ music mags such as Uncut and Mojo.
The former has a habit of gushingly embracing artists, and one of their pet acts a few years back was this guy. As a result (and on the advice of a travelling buddy), I picked this album up for a pittance in a Vietnamese CD ‘store’ in early 2008.
I forgot I owned it til last week. It’s had quite a few listens, and paint me impressed.
Ray has a soft, plaintive voice, and emotes like his life depends upon it. It’s all precious, elegant and engaging. The orchestration (i.e. some strings and the like) makes this feel intimate and well-balanced. It brings to mind the work of the Buckley clan, and also Ryan Adams‘ less histrionic moments.
The closing, title track is an excellent showcase of his combination of restraint and power (by the way, this is a fan-vid – nicely done):
I can imagine a wonderful live event with Lamontagne playing back to back with Martha Wainwright. I’d love to be lounging and swaying to that.
File under: No need for sun-block
I thought I’d break up the Bragg monotony, with a recently acquired album in the As.
So you may recall me enthusing about Adams’ Gold album. Not long after I bought a pile of CDs on sale from Bloodshot Records, including Ryan’s debut.
This is quite a contrast with his later work. It is much rawer and less pretentious. There is a real young Steve Earle vibe going on here. His voice has a wonderful vulnerability, and his songwriting is mesmerising. The production is sympathetic to this tenderness, and the tunes are not as grandiose as on Gold.
It’s worth judging country artists by the company they keep. Here he plays with some of the best – Gillan Welch and her hubby, plus Emmylou Harris. They are clearly impressed with his stuff, and deservedly so.
This is one of those good heartbreak albums – i.e. not overly self-indulgent and with some universality to the sentiment. At times, Adams does get pretty obscure with his metaphors, but I’ll let him go there. What is harder to forgive is the lame opening track of him and his buddy chatting about some Morrissey album. Why, or why do musicians think we’re going to want to listen to such banter repeatedly. All hail the ability to delete tracks from iTunes.
File under: alt-country awesomenessosity
Now this is an album I have listened to many times. Mr Adams delivers a wonderful set of country-tinged tracks. At times the album crosses over to almost a Southern-rock type sound. Adams has such an expressive and soulful voice, yet maintains a bit of Black Crowes-ish swagger. The stand out tracks are definitely the first two – New York, New York and Firecracker – and the last pair – Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues and Goodbye Hollywood Bvd.
He almost gets away with a very indulgent 9:41 min track in the middle, and certainly did a great job of corralling together a tight band. As I said, I have spent a fair amount of time with this album over the years. It is great Sunday afternoon music and if I drove more often I might well consider it a good driving CD.
Now my copy of the CD came with a bonus 5 track disk which a little research tells me is a collection of songs that Adams wanted included to make this a double album. His record label should have acquiesced as these track are up to scratch and, alas, they didn’t get much of a run on my stereo until I uploaded this album onto my iTunes.
As an aside beyond my 200 words (justified by the bonus disk?), I misspent my youth listening a hell of lot to an album by Ryan’s long-lost cousin Bryan called Reckless. But that was on cassette and got thrown away some time in the mid-90s… I did like that Summer of 69 track (and yes, I know the Ryan/Bryan gags are very, very old and prone to causing the former much angst).
File under: Possible country-rock classic