At a wedding in Baltimore this weekend, I ended up in a conversation with one of the other guests about Ray LaMontagne — about how I’d been gifted a vinyl copy of Gossip in the Grain a few years back, and then about how much I love Till the Sun Turns Black.
It’s a fascinating album, I think. There’s poetry (“On past the busted back of that old and rusted Cadillac”), there’s joy (“Three More Days“), there’s a damn-near perfect song (“Gone Away From Me“) … and then there’s the guilt. Ohhhhh the guilt. LaMontagne makes his guilty outlook clear early on — “I never learned to count my blessings/I choose instead to dwell in my disasters” — but eighth track “Lesson Learned” is where shit gets real. The narrator knows he did something wrong but he projects his guilt outward, blaming his infidelity on his partner in this twisted, messed-up tangle of emotions that so accurately reflects how we rarely feel just one thing at a time.
As someone who processes more than his fair share of guilt — I say “sorry” so much I should have dual Canadian citizenship — I find the song intoxicating. It’s an invitation to indulge one of the darkest and most destructive aspects of my psychology, and I take the bait every time. Damn you, catharsis!
Before I go, I’d like to apologize to Canada for the joke I just made. You’re a great country and you’re probably sick of people stereotyping you as apologetic. Sorry about that.
Ray LaMontagne — “Lesson Learned” [Spotify/iTunes]
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