One Track Mind: Ray LaMontagne, “Supernova” from Supernova (2014)

Somehow, Ray LaMontagne lost his mojo. A year went past after the release of his Grammy-winning God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise project. Then two. Then four. Other than the stand-alone track “Empty,” LaMontagne simply walked off the musical map.

He took a lot with him: The flinty gumption of Stephen Stills. The raw fragility of Richard Manuel. The offhanded groove of Rick Danko. The eruptive emotion of Otis Redding. At different times, the prodigiously talented LaMontagne could summon all of those things, and sometimes more. And so we were left to grab onto scraps, like his 2011 duet with Lisa Hannigan. And we waited.

Then news came that LaMontagne was finally ready to proceed again, finally ready to put pen to paper again on a career that had, previous to God Willin’ anyway, produced gem after gem after gem roughly every two years going back to 2004’s Trouble. But there was also news that LaMontagne was working at Dan Auerbach’s studio in Nashville, and that the Black Keys frontman was producing LaMontagne’s forthcoming album — to be called Supernova, and issued May 6, 2014 via RCA.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure how that would work. Auerbach has received his share of praise here, both with the Black Keys and as a producer on the most recent, and utterly superlative, album by Dr. John. But would that penchant for goosed-up roots rock mesh with LaMontagne’s looser, more pastoral tendencies? The title track from Supernova lays those worries to rest, placing LaMontagne in a slightly more polished setting but keeping his gruffly confessional voice thankfully front and center.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.