On his fifth album, Massachusetts singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne follows his muse and shifts his folk/soul sound from roots to psychedelic rock. LaMontagne enlisted Dan Auerbach, of the The Black Keys, as producer and went down to Nashville to lay down the stunningly evocative Supernova.
The duo realized that LaMontagne’s acoustic-based songs are a foundation for semi-psychedelic instrumentation and arrangements.
LaMontagne gives his voice and songs over to a different aesthetic and there’s no Paleolithic riffing from Auerbach, whose guitar playing is twangy and tasteful.
The songs are reverb-laden with choir-like choruses but rooted in guitars, drums and organ. In the age of automated musicianship and robotic production values, an album like this is a breakthrough. Here are 10 songs that have consistent yet subtly shifting moods.
Supernova references the past (a natural fit for LaMontagne and Auerbach.)The title song has the candid friendliness that many ’70s singer/songwriters possessed.
Ojai references the mellow California dream of The Doobie Brothers and The Eagles, via LaMontagne’s Stephen Stills’ influence.
No Other Way is a beauty of a track – a shimmery chordal blend of Simon and Garfunkel and The Young Rascals’ Get Together hit.
Airwaves is a sound dreamed up by LaMontagne – gentle but insistent. His voice sets him in a classic singer/songwriter category – high, earthy and familiar, and the music captures the mood of summer and sets it to song. The track is typical of the album – a free roaming ambiance in solid structure.
LaMontagne’s songs have a laid-back forcefulness and their references from the past recall and reinforce the open boundaries of the era to achieve their ends. They travelled through there to end up here: a modern folk/soul/psychedelic album that evokes travel, youth, nostalgia and rock and roll daydreams.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases for The Morning Star every Friday.