If you had told me a week ago I’d be featuring the latest album titled “Ouroboros” from Ray LaMontagne, I would have likely responded that you must have mistaken me for someone else.  I had heard a little bit of LaMontagne here and there, he’s shown up on various soundtracks from TV and motion pictures (most recently Sawyer Fredericks who won the Voice last year cited him as a key influence).  I didn’t dislike him, but nothing ever really stood out enough for me to ever listen to one of his records.  Then I saw a write-up someone did about the new album, heavy praise, discussing the change in his sound and how this is the type of record that you put on and sit down and shut out the rest of the world as you absorb it.  The praise was sincere enough for me to note the album and actually listen to it when I had a chance earlier in the week.  Needless to say, even though I was only able to hear a few songs the first time I played it, I was intrigued.  It was definitely a sound that was unique and without any commercial aspirations.  You could tell he was playing music that he wanted to perform and it would simply be a bonus if other people also enjoyed it.  LaMontagne plays this music like he’s floating by on clouds, there’s a big sense of space and an ethereal quality to most of the album – the sound hangs all around you.  Most of his vocals are quiet and hushed as he strays away from his sandpapery vocals reminiscent of Van Morrison and Jeff Buckley. 
Whatever he set out to accomplish, I liked it.  His album is very different from most of the other music I listen to, so it provides a breath of fresh air.  Intrigued on why/how he changed up his sound, I found out his new album was produced by Jim James (My Morning Jacket).  Oh, well that explains a lot of the sonic differences and I’m a fan of James so I could see one reason why his new album appealed to me.  The two work well together.  LaMontagne had worked with the same producer on his first three albums, self-produced his 4th and worked with Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) on his 5th.  It wasn’t like LaMontagne hadn’t been experiencing success, his 5th album topped the Billboard rock chart and charted as high as #3 on the album charts.  Previous releases charted in the top 3 on American charts and he even earned a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.  Nevertheless, he proceeded to forge a completely new sound on “Ouroboros”.  This is a record that is meant to be listened to as an album.   The 8 tracks are split out into Part One and Part Two.  There are no aspirations of hit radio singles here.  But if you don’t have a chance to listen to the album in its entirety, here are a few tracks for the curious to check out.
“Hey, No Pressure” – Of course I pick the “heaviest” song on the album to feature first, but it’s still my favorite at the moment.  And it still has an overall chill vibe.  I love the guitar line on this track and the often repeated title phrase.  This song could probably go on for 20 minutes before I got tired of the groove.  Throughout the track is some very cool instrumentation, plus the song has a good message.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HukIAJjCFUM – live version on Colbert’s late night show (and it looks like playing on stage with him is the bass player, drummer and keyboardist from My Morning Jacket)
“In My Own Way” – Here’s a very mellow track that kicks off Part Two on the album.  You can identify some of the impact Jim James had on the record listening to this track – reverb, the big space this song seems to float around in and the dreamy, ethereal quality of the music.  Nothing is going to hurry this song along so just let it unfold and it will fade out whenever it’s ready.

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