"I don't pay taxes because I never file, I don't do business that don't make me smile," sang Stephen Stills on his 1990 classic "Tree Top Flyer," about a free-spirited smuggler. It's what inspired Ray LaMontagne to leave his job at a Maine shoe factory. Instead of going to work after he heard that song with the 4 a.m. alarm, he sat up and decided to change his life. He went to the record shop and bought that Stills album, and then albums by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Otis Redding and Neil Young. After drifting for 22 years of his life, he'd discovered what he wanted to do -- sing, though he'd really never done it before. Through a fortuitous set of connections, he ended up with a publishing deal, and soon after recorded his terrific debut album, Trouble, with Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, the Jayhawks). His soulful voice evinces a richness reminiscent of Van Morrison. The somber musical textures are a creamy froth of folk strumming and sad, waltz-time tracks that recall the rustic lope of The Band.
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