Ray LaMontagne’s “Empty”

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Within the music world, it seems that something mysterious happens when soul meets folk. At least this is the case with singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne. In fact, I think it would be rather difficult to attend a Ray LaMontagne show and leave without describing both his music and personality as “mysterious”.

While most live performers attempt to strike a balance between music performance and audience interaction, LaMontagne is becoming known for leaving the latter on the shelf and placing complete confidence in allowing his music to speak for itself.

I was fortunate enough to attend a concert last fall in which not one word was uttered from the stage that didn’t involve a song lyric. For those that have ever experienced this type of interaction, an obvious detachment between performer and audience reveals itself; however, with LaMontagne, it only seemed to enhance the connection, his persona, and the music at hand.

Introvert would be an understatement when describing this lean musician who appropriately hides behind his thickly groomed beard. As he sheepishly approached the stage, it appeared as though he was entertaining the thought of crawling back behind the curtain. Nevertheless, the moment he strapped his guitar on, LaMontagne entered into a trance and effortlessly pulled the audience along with him.

The following was the first song of that evening, and one of the most complex and intense songs I have experienced in the last few years. Empty embodies both emotion and imagery that boldly interacts with past experiences, future longings, and present fears. It taps into a reality (that desire for “something”, or maybe more appropriately “something more”) in which humanity is extremely familiar.

If you are unfamiliar with Ray LaMontagne or the song below, I encourage you to just hit play. We have provided the lyrics below; however, a first listen is certainly worthy of the music alone.

Ray LaMontagne

She lifts her skirt up to her knees
Walks through the garden rows with her bare feet, laughing
I never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters

Walk on down the hill
Through the grass grown tall and brown
And still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain
On past the busted back
Of that old and rusted Cadillac
That sinks into this field collecting rain

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged

Of these cutthroat busted sunsets
These cold and damp white mornings I have grown weary
If through my cracked and dusty dimestore lips
I spoke these words out loud would no one hear me

Lay your blouse across the chair
Let fall the flowers from your hair
And kiss me with that country mouth so plain
Outside the rain is tapping on the leaves
To me it sounds like they’re applauding us
The quiet love we make

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged

Well I looked my demons in the eye
Laid bare my chest said do your best destroy me
See I’ve been to hell and back so many times
I must admit you kinda bore me

There’s a lot of things that can kill a man
There’s a lot of ways to die
Yes and some already dead who walk beside you
There’s a lot of things I don’t understand
Why so many people lie
Well it’s the hurt you hide that fuels the fires inside you