Ray LaMontagne and Why Soul Is Timeless

When you listen to the first track of Ray LaMontagne’s latest album, Gossip in the Grain, you hear a fantastic anachronism. It’s a tune that leaps out at you with a blatting horn section and a rich layer of passionate lyric. It grabs ahold of you and makes you wonder if you accidentally popped in a Marvin Gaye disc from the 50’s. It definitely doesn’t sound like 2008, nor does it sound like the creative output of our most famous folk troubadour from the Maine countryside…

Ray LaMontagne continually taps into the greatness of decades past without paying tribute to it. He swims in the vein of Motown and soulful folk music… all genres that sprung up in the past, and still sound better than most music being created today.

Why is this?

Why do I hear “You Are The Best Thing” (The aforementioned leadoff track to “Gossip…”) and feel I’m listening to the jackpot of musical greatness in 2008? Here’s the thing: I did not live through the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s. I never breathed a single breath of air under JFK’s presidency, and don’t know what Woodstock was like. I have no sense of nostalgia for the music of the 60’s and 70’s, but I still prefer the musical styles that typify those eras.

The latest successes of Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Adele, John Legend, and Alicia Keys also speak to this point. It would seem that the musical DNA of soul music is truly timeless, and is able to endure without historical context or the “when-I-was-your-age” nostalgic rants of middle-agers.

Maybe the greatness of soul music is a universal truth.

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5 Responses to Ray LaMontagne and Why Soul Is Timeless

  1. Paul says:

    “when-I-was-your-age” nostalgic rants of middle-agers ??? Explain,, Please – not sure what U mean – don’t wanna reply till i understand correctly.

  2. lithe says:

    Here’s what I’m getting at: people are always nostalgic about the music of their youth. They’ll claim this decade or that decade had the best music, and things haven’t been the same since. As time marches on, and generations grow up, the music of today seems of lesser quality than the music of yesteryear.

    I argue that soul music is actually timeless, and that nostalgia has nothing to do with why people think it’s so good.

    Soul music may tap into the collective consciousness of musical society. It doesn’t need the “nostalgia factor” to get its appeal.

  3. Paul Brown says:

    If something is truly good then it has no time stamp it peaks for itself’ Done with- Feeling Creativity and Some Talent -Done by someone who’s considered a Professional. One who is Paid for his or her work – And one who has Mastered his craft: Webster Dictionary. Some will always be better than others. But the Music industry has made it so that Amateurs – People who are not developed and just don’t have what it takes to be a real a Professional are making Millions and think its because there better than those who are not on top,, But can’t go down to serious Open Mic,, Cuz they’ll get Crucified,& Owned, And I’ve never seen them show up’ they know they couldn’t hang. On the other hand U have Folks like “Diane Reeves “Chaka “Ollie Woodson “Phoebe Snow,,& others even though some us’ are better than some of them. We still look up to them for the work they’ve done, we know that everybody can’t be singed .Soul Music – is no more timeless than any other Music, it was introduced 2 the World from the Black Church. We just feel the groove on the 2+4 there’s no thinking involved’ where not trying to play Funky or make it Soul, we just put a name 2 what was natural to us. Soul Really means “It Comes from Deep Within” (Play it like U MEAN IT or Don’t ) Any Music coming from that place we consider Soul. Slaves owned only one thing, and it was (What came from the Soul),,the only thing that couldn’t be taken, Music Love Dance Food// thats all they had. like The Blues” Most people who try to play it have no clue & play a lot of fast notes ‘that say nothing its a joke. The Music didn’t come 1st, these People were playing and singing there Pain” Thats what was in there Soul’ troubling them Deep inside living in them – (Im feeling or I’m Blue or i Got the Blues’ God knows they had enough to feel that way about. I agree Most people are Nostalgic, but’ about a lot of things in life. My Grandmother was born in Georgia 1892 I’m petty sure she liked her generations music better then her Daughters’ My Mother born 1921 Georgia,, I liked my Generations Music more than Hers, but she loved Motown and country & Stevie Aretha & the rest & we own some of the same records and i loved hers cause it was incredible Music . If anyone is a Developed Musician no matter how Old or Young ‘how in the world could they not learn from & appreciate Cole Porter who i might add was way before my time. All generations are fortunate to have that great Music,, My Point?<<> When i was young we didn’t hear (When i was your Age)- about Music – None at All – If people are hearing it today, It it self makes my point,, Truly Good Music ? Time cannot Harm or Age,, its the same with / Love – Caring – Goodness – Humility – honesty- Giving, N-e-v-e-r E-V-E-R Will it get Old or DATED. Although some will do it Better then others -When its Real” it speaks for itself and there’s no Need to make the statement (When i was your age) That approach or concept has been left out of the equation for years in Music, especially in the mainstream today. Don’t you find it interesting why”’ Samplers have become so popular? Is it to record sound bites of todays Oh so great music, or is it to capture Bites of the Music of the (When i Was your Agers) or just copy it outright. HUMMM?

  4. lithe says:

    I agree completely. Great music–truly great music–is timeless.

    But I think all great music, no matter what genre it is, has to have soul in it. 🙂

  5. Paul Brown says:

    See now where Cousins” Soul Thats what makes Great Music, thats the secret ingredient, with out it,, the recipe is no good – Now Where talkin Bro. Das what I’m talken Bout P-E-A-C-E. “”Oh i have a copy of one of Stevie Wonders (B-I-G-G-E-S-T) Hits in my Logic- all the individual tracks except the bass line, with 2 different vocal takes – all i can say is “”OH — MY – – GOD.””

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