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Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs

Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs
Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs
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Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs is an American band, marking the first time that American singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne has released music in collaboration with other artists within the context of a band. Their debut album, "God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise" was released in 2010. Nominated for two Grammy awards, the album won the award for best contemporary folk album. The song "Beg Steal or Borrow" was nominated for Song of the Year. The band includes Eric Heywood and Greg Leisz on guitars, Jennifer Condos on bass, and Jay Bellerose on drums. They have been working as LaMontagnes touring band for some time.

Theres something magical that happens when these musicians play together, says Ray LaMontagne. Ive been wanting to capture what weve been doing live for a while. The chemistry is really special.

The billing on LaMontagnes fourth album, God Willin & the Creek Dont Rise, reveals instantly that something new is happening with this project. The record is credited to Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogsthe first time that the singer/songwriter has defined himself within a band setting, rather than as a solo artist. In addition, it marks the first time that LaMontagne has taken on the role of producer. And as soon as the music starts, with the Joe Cocker-style soul power of the opening Repo Man, its apparent that one of the worlds most acclaimed artists has moved into some fresh territory.

Not that he was necessarily in need of a new direction. The album is the follow-up to 2008s Gossip in the Grain, which debuted in the Top Five on the Billboard charts; garnered two 2010 Grammy nominations; earned LaMontagne a coveted slot performing on Saturday Night Live; and continued the expansion of a highly-respected career that began with his first album, Trouble, in 2004.

The line-up of the Pariah Dogs, and their alliance with LaMontagne, is already well-proven and familiar. These musiciansEric Heywood and Greg Leisz on guitars, Jennifer Condos on bass, and Jay Bellerose on drumshave been working as the singers touring band for the last few years, and developing into a tight-knit team. Though he had thought about trying to get all of these busy session players together in the studio before, only now did time and circumstance align and make it possible.

For one thing, there was a new work set-up that LaMontagne was excited about. I just bought this old estate in western Massachusetts that belonged to the first US ambassador to Russia, he says. Theres this beautiful room in the house, that was once a connected barn that was turned into a ballroom in the early 1900s and I felt like it would make a great place to record.

It was an unknown space and an unknown situation, but it all worked, says drummer Bellerose. It was one of the easiest sessions Ive ever donethe songs just played themselves. We were scheduled to record for two weeks, but we were done tracking in five or six days.

The last song on God Willin, The Devils in the Jukebox, was the first thing that the group recorded. Bellerose notes that this simple, bluesy track set a tone for the sessions. It was kind of a springboard, he says. It loosened everybody up, gave us a chance to breathe.

Thats one of those songs I tend to write that is so damn linear, its up to us to make it interesting, says LaMontagne with a laugh. If you take it apart, theres not a lot happening. But the way these guys approach songs is always surprising. Where they take the melody, the interplay between the rhythm sectionwho knows what theyre going to come up with?

Guitarist Heywood says that the singer made a decision beforehand to trust the band, and he really stuck to that. He points to the albums title track as an example of the way these sessions allowed each song to find its own path. Heywood and Leisz both play pedal steel, and they looked to LaMontagne to determine the arrangements and instrumentation.

On that one, he said, How about two pedal steels?, Heywood recalls. And then Jay started doing this bombastic, artillery-style drum thing. The song reads as a letter, with no chorus or bridge, so the whole thing was the most surprising track for me, and definitely one of my favorites. And Rays vocal performance is amazing.

Ray LaMontagne has one of the remarkable stories in musics past decade. Since leaving his job in a Maine shoe factory to pursue his calling as a musician, he has released three studio albums and two live EPs, won awards and topped critics polls internationally, and established himself as one of the most distinctive talents of his generation. His songs have been featured in numerous films and television shows, including multiple performances of his compositions on American Idol.

Yet he maintains that, until God Willin, all of these accomplishments have come despite his own struggles in the recording studio. The process has always been laborious, its been difficult for me to get any momentum, he says. I always felt like I was swimming upstream.

But this time, things were different. Ray was really in his comfort zone, says Bellerose. He was home with family, hes really relaxed around this bandthere was never a moment that felt uncomfortable. I think hes just having a lot more fun communicating with more people, and getting out of being on his own as a singer/songwriter.

LaMontagne claims that he didnt specifically set out to write songs for this group of musicians, though he certainly had its sound in his mind. Regardless of the outcome, he says that his process didntand cant everchange.

For me, songs just have to happen, they have to come out of nowhere, he says. Otherwise it sounds like youre trying to write a song, and I can spot that a mile awayand I think listeners can, too.

I wont ever sit down and write unless something is knocking at the door. I can go months without writing a songand thats when it gets scary, when you feel like youre never going to write another song because theyre just not coming around.

LaMontagnes steady output, however, indicates that theres little cause for concern. And for God Willin & the Creek Dont Rise, in addition to his own extraordinary writing, these ten songs had the benefit of contributions from an exceptional bunch of musicians, collaborating under ideal conditions. Even the notoriously self-critical LaMontagne cant hide his delight at the results.

These guys are all so good, and I trust their instincts, I just wanted to write songs that I felt would excite them, concludes LaMontagne There was a certain amount of pressure, because theyre so much more accomplished than I am as a musician. But I knew that if I could pull together a batch of songs I was happy with, there was really no risk involved.

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License and may also be available under the GNU FDL.
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