Ok. I debated whether or not I was going to devote a post to Ray LaMontagne at the Ryman tonight. Not because I don’t love him – because I really do. His songs kill me. Just straight-up slay me. If I were held hostage and forced against my will to list my Top Five Favorite Songs Of All Time (and this is sort of a nightmare scenario for me because… MY GOD THE PRESSURE) you would absolutely hear me call out to Ray. But I figured promoting a show that is already beyond sold-out was sort of silly… and yet, I can’t stop myself from wanting to advocate for him. So here goes.
Once upon a summer time, I was fortunate enough to be among the many huddled beneath the tent as he was recording his EP, aptly titled, Live from Bonnaroo (a follow-up to his 2004 debut, the truly magnificent, Trouble). It was one of those magical Manchester moments in time where someone on stage is sharing something straight from their heart and the audience instantly recognizes it, holding space for this brave vulnerability. Here stood this man that had been making a living in a shoe factory but really hungered to live. In between songs, he wept and thanked those gathered there for their role in giving him this new life as he was overwhelmed by the reality of these strangers’ voices singing his songs along with him. If you can bear witness for when someone in their moment of realization that they’re finally where they want to be, where they were meant to be, where they were made to be – you leave forever changed. I’ll never forget that moment, and I’m so grateful I’ll always have the music to remind me.
I’ve seen Ray LaMontagne half a dozen times since. Other ‘Roo performances, the now defunct City Hall (used to be in the Gulch, it’s an Urban Outfitters now), War Memorial Auditorium, The Opry House. But I have never seen him at the Mother Church and somehow, despite all my savvy, I didn’t get to tickets fast enough and couldn’t find anyone with any to spare. It’s ok. It means it’s time to share. So for those of you fortunate enough to spend some time tonight with Ray, really take it in. And those of you that have passed over his music as mid-tempo, adult-contemporary neo-Cat Stevens 70s left-over… listen again. You can see inside someone if you know where to look, and his songs are transparent, gossamer. Lyrically, they’re often as straight-ahead as Johnny Cash and while they’re poetic, they don’t pull any punches. His songs are mile markers in my life – and the lives of many. He’s a friend I’ve never met.
Here’s the EP from the Bonnaroo ’05 show where I became a life-fan below… and here’s a jump to our Bonnaroo predictions to help you get a head start on falling in love with your Next Favorite Band.
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