Writing Projects

Ray Lamontagne, Trouble
Ray Lamontagne was working in a shoe factory in Maine, woke up one morning to hear Stephen Stills' "Tree Top Flyer" on the radio, and decided he was going to be a singer-songwriter. He'd never sung or performed before, so he spent the next couple of years listening to the catalog of singer-songwriters from the 1970s, plus Otis Redding and other R B greats. The resulting debut CD sounds like it came out of this period. Lamontagne's painfully reflexive lyrics about heartbreak, sadness, and relationships offers a nice challenge to much of what's passing for good music these days. Ray Lamontagne will appear live at the Fillmore on April 6.

Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
For a longtime Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Jeff Tweedy fan like me, nothing quite does it like the release of a new recording, and Jeff Tweedy and company do not disappoint on this summer entry. Fans of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot will note the similar manner in which songs are taken apart and put back together in ways that sometimes challenge the melodies (and the ears of the listeners). Listeners must often wade through distortion and other blocks of sound and curious instrumentation to get to the heart of a song. It's worth the effort, and it is a recording which gets better with repeated listenings. Tweedy has softened and smoothed out his vocals on most songs. Gone is the familiar raspy voice, replaced instead with a plaintive, often sweet sound. Try it, you'll like it. Wilco appears locally at the Paramount Theater in Oakland on November 14.

Patrick Free
Loneliness Knows My Name
This is a great debut full length CD by a great singer songwriter. Think Elliott Smith with a little Ryan Adams thrown in. Great hooks, excellent guitar work, and thoughtful lyrics. Patrick's opening up for Liz Phair on her current tour. She called this disc the best CD of the year. Especially good tracks are "Thunderbolt," "Something Pretty" and "Home for Now." Part of a song even made it into a recent episode of The OC.

Damien Rice, O
Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice may be the next big thing. He'll be compared to Jack Johnson and John Mayer, and attract some of those fans, but he's a lot more interesting than either. He can be alternately tender, brooding, and lyrical. His self-produced album went triple platinum in Ireland. "Cannonball" and "The Blower's Daughter" are two favorite cuts. Check out Damien's music and see Damien himself live at the Warfield on March 27.

Ryan Adams, Love Is Hell, Parts 1 and 2
A lot has been said about Ryan Adams. After the highs of critical praise with "Heartbreaker" and "Gold," he earned scorn for his bad behavior during live shows and for his rough three chord compilation "Rock and Roll." These two EPs, released late last year, have the former Whiskeytown frontman back to form. You can read more and listen to clips at his Lost Highway site.