Album of the Week: Ray LaMontagne, 'Ouroboros'

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Ray LaMontagne - Ouroboros
Ray LaMontagne - Ouroboros (RCA)

Ray LaMontagne lets you know when the needle drops on his new Ouroboros album that this is a different sort of album for him. The album's opener, "Homecoming," is an almost nine-minute epic psychedelic tune. It's evident that LaMontagne chose to make the album he wanted to make rather than an album to set the pop charts on fire.

It seems as if he's distancing himself from the '70s-inspired, easy-breezy folk music he was once known for. Ray LaMontagne showed his cards a few years ago when he dropped by The Current's studios for a Theft of the Dial; he chose tracks by The Zombies, The Troggs, the Grateful Dead's cosmic "China Cat Sunflower" and Pink Floyd's psychedelic "Astronomy Domine." These aren't exactly songs from The Anthology of Folk, Vol. 1!

You can hear the Floyd influence all over LaMontagne's cerebral tune, "In My Own Way," which hints at Pink Floyd's "Us & Them." For the most part, Ouroboros, is a dreamy psychedelic album, but he shows some bluesy grit on the album first single, "Hey, No Pressure" — maybe that's what LaMontagne was telling himself when he was recording the album.

He chose a very capable cast to help make this arty rock album, enlisting Jim James to produce and James's mates from My Morning Jacket to play on Ouroboros. The MMJ boys will also back LaMontagne on his summer tour.

Ray LaMontagne has always been known for his rugged, soulful voice, but his vocals aren't always the star of the show on Ouroboros. It's kind of a bold move for LaMontagne to feature an instrumental, "A Murmuration of Starlings," on this release.

It's refreshing to see that not everybody is trying to push a song up the pop charts. On the album's finale, "Wouldn't it Make A Lovely Photograph," LaMontagne sings, "Never gonna hear this song on the radio!"

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