‘Til the Sun Turns Black – Ray Lamontagne
Ray Lamontagne’s second RCA-backed release is an emotional gut punch. Still, it’s a gut punch that stresses a second and third helping. Although the vibe is overwhelmingly melancholy, Lamontagne's music and vocals are tastefully and beautifully wrought and it seems he is making the most of his beefy label, releasing a great thematic album at a time in his career where the advertising potential is locked and loaded.
Under the heart-heavy delivery, there’s the notion that everything is really alright. On “Be Here Now” Lamontagne sings, “Don’t let your heart get heavy. Child, inside you there’s a strength that lies.” The backing piano starts to hit a little heavier and “be here now” is sung slowly, reassuring that it’s all good when you have someone to lean on. “Don’t lose your faith in me and I’ll try not to lose my faith in you.”
“Empty” could make the meanest meathead cry. It’s a song about a man who says he chooses to “dwell in my disasters,” a man weary of sunsets and the impending rises, leaving him to wonder, even while making love to his woman, “Will I always feel this way?” The music bears a simple power, full of the pain the lyrics contain as a soft acoustic guitar chucks through the croon of a mournful violin.
“Three More Days” fetches the horn section and a smile. “Three more days, girl you know I will be coming home to you darling,” Lamontagne sings with an obvious soulful joy as a full band funks and dances behind him. The joy is quickly toppled by the pain that has the album under its watch. As the album’s story flows, our protagonist has made it back home to his love and one step later “You Can Bring Me Flowers” sees his lady walking away as time can change so much. “Gone Away From Me” finds him completely alone, again, and singing “Life is long; my love has gone away from me.” If the delivery weren’t so refined, all of this would be almost too damned sad to sit through, but sitting through it can bring a sense of wisdom, whether through sympathy or empathy. The listener will leave the album with the gift of lines like, “There’s no use holding onto a memory that only causes you pain,” a notion helpful to us all, sometime.
It’s appropriate that an album so concentrated on the pains of loneliness realizes, in the end (“Within You”), that “the answer is within.” The music is uplifting with a swinging tambourine and the backing of what sounds like a string quartet that’s been asked to play in the illusive mood of “contentment.” The song is a simple one, the word “love” being repeated over and over again. That’s the greatest realization of all. It’s the realization that even though one love may fade, as long as we have love within and let it shine out, we’ll act as a beacon and find what we all need, one day or another. It’s nothing new to the world and it will continue until the sun turns black.