I gave up on Ray LaMontagne almost immediately after starting – his first coupla records were nice but he sounded a bit like he was trying to chew through marbles as he sang. And I didn’t like that; a contrived take on white-soul singing and there was only so much hitting and hoping in the vague direction of Van Morrison that I could take.
It’s actually been nice reconnecting with his music by forcing myself to try Supernova. Its produced by Dan Auerbach – the now ubiquitous if-you-want-it-sound-a-bit-sixties producer-du-jour and he does his usual solid/ish job of swirling in some pastel paint-by-numbers sixties hues.
LaMontagne’s voice still bothers me – in the long term but I reckon this album excerpts well; it’s less concerned with aping Tim Buckley and crude white-man versions of great sixties soul and the big – wonderful – vowel-movements of Van when he was totally The Man and so somewhere in and around all that marble-chewing Ray has a voice he can call – I guess – his own.
But the songs aren’t smart – they don’t mean a whole lot and so repeat plays mean that this doesn’t stand up to much. It is better than Auerbach’s work with his own band or with Lana Del Rey from this year, it is better than a lot of the retro-hopefuls like the paint-by-numbers dying squeal of Jack White’s last-legs guitar. And there are one or two moments – like Pick Up A Gun – where you could imagine fooling your mate into thinking you’d found some long lost gem.
But it’s still a bit wishy-washy for me and what he no doubt is aiming to pass off as dreamy starts to just sound sleepy.
And I can’t help but think that LaMontagne’s fans – many of them, anyway – mark him up for not being as over-produced and forged as a lot of the current contenders. That doesn’t actually amount to praising him for being any sort of good, he’s just winning in the wishful-authenticity stakes.