And right after that he’s counting off the Dixieland jive of “Hey Me, Hey Mama” and suppressing a giggle. “You can really hear that we captured something there,” LaMontagne says. “I was just basically showing them the song, and Jennifer jumped on the drums and Ethan grabbed his uke, and we just kind of did it, holding on by the seat of our pants, just for fun.” The late-song trumpet and clarinet were surely added in later, but it doesn’t strip the song of any immediacy.
The album closes with its namesake, a closely mic’d vocal piece with tape-hiss like a whistling wind, toy piano, a spare acoustic guitar strum, a haunting flute line, and lyrics that read like The Wind in the Willows as written by Edgar Allen Poe: “Callous is the old crow/He’d mock even the sun/Eyes as black as blood, won’t crack in craw/He’d say, he’d say, always nevermind.” A bowed bass line cuts through the piece, and in the finish LaMontagne moves to an impassioned higher register final verse before cutting out as quickly as he came in, with four notes of toy piano to say goodbye.
No, this album doesn’t ask as much — it gives so much more. LaMontagne may have torn himself open for all to see on Black, but we never got a good look at him until now.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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