Please Explain The Appeal Of Ray LaMontagne To Me

Ray-Lamontagne.jpgI’ve been characterized by some of this site’s commenters as cranky and ill-informed in the past, so maybe one of you can enlighten me regarding a recent dilemma. (I’m not trying to start a fight, I promise.) People keep telling me that I should check out Ray LaMontagne. Why?

I had nearly forgotten about LaMontagne (whose last name is no fun to type at all) until hearing about his upcoming appearance at Radio City Music Hall. Apparently, he sold out the Beacon Theatre when he last played New York, so I guess he can fill up Radio City. But I generally can tolerate rootsy singer-songwriter types–by which I mean, I really like one Ryan Adams disc–and I don’t find LaMontagne enjoyable to listen to at all.

The most puzzling adjective that I find in reviews of LaMontagne’s music is “soulful.” My immediate assumption is that these writers are pulling that term from a press release–but if they aren’t, why? I guess his raspier tone gives him the appearance of being more authentic than some of the twenty year old singer songwriters flooding Triple-A radio stations these days, but a vocal style itself doesn’t instantly grant “soul,” does it? I like Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks” a lot, but I wouldn’t call it “soulful”. Otherwise, the comparison that seems to keep coming up is Van Morrison, which I understand a little if we’re referring to the “Wait, this guy used to be really good, didn’t he?” era of Morrison’s career, but I don’t think I hear an Astral Weeks coming from this guy, unless he’s just using a series of goofy covers to buy himself some time before creating his masterpiece.

So, can anyone explain the appeal?

Ray LaMontagne Announces Radio City Music Hall Show [Glide]