It’s not often you can say that you hail from the same place as a pseudo-celebrity, but I feel privileged to say that that’s the case with myself and the wandering soul that is Ray Lamontagne. This nostalgic singer/songwriter was born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1973, moved to Utah in his early teens, then moved again to Lewiston, Maine in his late adolescence where he would stay working in a shoe factory until he was 26 years. As the fable goes, he woke up one day to the song “Treetop Flyer” by Stephen Stills playing on his radio (side note: only radio stations in the boonies of northern New England would be playing that song) and abruptly decided to quit his job to pursue a career as a solo musician. 17 years, 6 studio albums, and a Grammy later, Lamontagne has blossomed into a modern folk superstar, or at least as close you can get to superstardom in the folk sub-genre of singing/songwriting. He currently resides in Ashfield, Massachusetts in an apparent attempt to eternally reside in the middle of nowhere as a self described “very private person”.
By the sounds of the choral refrain, Lamontagne unfortunately doesn’t associate his angsty childhood memories with the small city of Nashua, and rather places his common sentiment in the rural backwoods of Maine. Why is that the case, you ask? Well there isn’t a drive in movie theater within a half hour of Nashua, nor is it probable that he got cigarettes that he “stole from a seven ‘leven” as a preteen. Lamontagne still plays into the common sentiment however, as most wistful listeners certainly “Wanna be the guy that doesn’t like to fight, but he’ll kick your ass if you touch his girl. Wanna be the guy that breaks all the rules, but the cops let’em off ’cause they think he’s cool.” Ray Lamontagne’s newest 2016 album Ouroboros, featuring and produced by My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, contains several front-running tracks for song of the year, especially his slow and dreamy jam “Part Two: In My Own Way”. No, I’m not ashamed of the endlessly repeated plugs for my future “Best of…” playlists. Stellar tunes have to be marketed accordingly.