Out & About: Singer-songwriters Change Directions (Anna Lombard & Ray Lamontagne)

Scott Andrews

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 2:40 pm

A pair of singer-songwriters who are following new muses and changing directions dominate the upcoming performing arts calendar.


Anna Lombard, a Maine singer-songwriter who is best known as co-founder and lead singer of Gypsy Tailwind, will be appearing in a new collaboration with The Boston Boys this Sunday at One Longfellow Square in Portland.

Box office-wise, the biggest concert will be Ray LaMontagne’s May 27 appearance at the Cumberland County Civic Center. He’s launching a summer tour in support of “Supernova,” his newly released CD. That title represents a celebration of a fresh creative process underpinning LaMontagne’s work.

Anna Lombard, a southern Maine singer-songwriter who is best known as co-founder and lead singer of Gypsy Tailwind, has been changing directions over the past year. Last summer she released a solo CD, and this Sunday she’ll be performing in Portland

Ray LaMontagne

It’s been a decade since singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne emerged from a Lewiston shoe factory to become a major force in American music. After bursting out of the metaphorical starting gate, he released four CDs between 2004 and 2010. The latter, titled “God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise,” won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

But despite his growing popularity with critics and fans, LaMontagne said that he was losing a creative struggle – mostly with himself – and found it nearly impossible to progress with his music. He got so depressed that he considered quitting, he told Rolling Stone writer Patrick Doyle.

But a couple of years ago, a flash of insight into his own contorted creative process led to a renewed burst of energy. The result is LaMontagne’s first new album since 2010. The title, “Supernova,” epitomizes a forceful rebirth of his musical mojo.

The key was to allow his spontaneity to take charge. “I’ve always written with this slave driver’s critical mind lashing me,” he told Rolling Stone. “But this time I just let the songs happen.”

The result is liberating he explains: “The whole record was written that way. It was playful and really wonderful. It felt the way it feels in the beginning, when you’re first writing songs. They’re not precious in any way. It’s just a joyful, emotional truth, not like anything that’s being dredged up. I just ran with it, man. It was a great feeling.”

“Supernova” was officially released a month ago and now LaMontagne – who lives in western Massachusetts nowadays – is embarking on a national supporting tour, beginning next week in Portland. He’s put together a new backing band for the tour, and “Supernova” has some new arrangements that allow him to play electric guitar on stage.

Catch Ray LaMontagne on May 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Call 775-3458.

Anna Lombard and The Boston Boys

Maine singer-songwriter Anna Lombard strikes me as both a chameleon and an enigma.

Chameleon? Her singing boasts many colorations and she seems to seamlessly blend into a variety of formats. She can alternate between subtle and understated elegance and in-your-face gale force. One moment she can be comfortable and effective in the girl-with-guitar tradition of Joan Baez, but she’s equally adept at up-sizing her performances as the lead singer of a rocking band.

Enigma? There always seems to be something mysterious that’s lurking just outside her main theme, nuances of meaning that subtly color her music without being overtly present.

What’s always present is her superb soprano voice, and the key to her success is discovering new ways to shape it and mold it and embrace her material.

Lombard first came to prominence in 2008 as the co-founder and lead singer of Gypsy Tailwind, a modern roots band based in Portland. Then last summer she radically simplified her music with a very personal CD, “Head Full of Bells,” which won accolades from critics and established her creds as a solo performer.

Lombard performs in Portland on Sunday, with opening act The Boston Boys, which describes itself as “future roots.” The Boston Boys hail from Brooklyn, N.Y., but take their name from the fact that they were first gathered by mandolinist, guitarist and lead singer Eric Robertson, who initiated the band while a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Instrumentation includes a resonator guitar – which harks back to the 1920s – as well as its modern electric replacement. Other elements of The Boston Boys’ sonic palette include fiddle and electric bass.

Old Port Magazine – Singer/Songwriter Feature


On September 15, 2014

By: Mark Curdo

When you listen to or watch a solo artist, do you ever wonder about his or her journey? All the emotion, all the joy and pain in the music comes back to this one person. So, what makes someone sing?

For local singer Anna Lombard, the answer is “release.” She recorded Head Full of Bells, her first solo album, while she picked up extra waitressing shifts while raising a daughter with her husband. To make it, she reunited with childhood friend, musician, and songwriter Adam Agati. Lush, rich and clear, her voice reminds you of Bonnie Raitt. Your heart feels warm and secure listening to Lombard; it’s like a like a giant, long hug from your grandmother.

While recording the album was a journey in itself, Lombard’s musical path began when she was a child. A native of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, she was two years old when her parents separated. She doesn’t remember being in the same house with the two of them at the same time, but she does remember music. Her dad played in rock bands. Her grandfather played piano and sang. Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, and the Beatles were always on the turntable, and Lombard absorbed the quality blues, soul, and melodic pop.

At four years old, Lombard’s talent became apparent when sang as an angel in her church Christmas show. Her mother quickly signed her up for vocal lessons, and soon she was belting out show tunes and even Italian arias. In school, she was a self-confessed “band geek,” playing the French horn, baritone tuba, and trumpet. Yet Lombard always felt more comfortable with blues and soul music. So her direction set to head more towards a seat on a porch in the South rather than a seat the symphony .

In 2007, Lombard teamed up with Dan Connor for what would be come the Portland roots band Gypsy Tailwind. She gained professional experience, making two solid records, but she didn’t want to be half of a vocal duo or be limited to country and folk music. So in 2012, Lombard and four members of Gypsy Tailwind left to start her next project, Anna and the Diggs. That was another learning process for Lombard. “Those guys were great musicians. We were really close and I learned a lot with both bands, but I mostly learned that I wanted to be the frontwoman. They helped me build my confidence.”

With each new project, Lombard is getting closer to what she wants in music. She recognizes that she’s not there yet, but you can hear her strength growing in each new song she records. “As I mature as a person,” she says, “I’m learning to take a step back and enjoy the journey of getting to a place I want to go to musically.”

Although she may still be on the path to get where she wants to be, it’s clear to anyone who’s listened to her voice—even a brief minute—that Anna Lombard has already arrived.

Maine Album Reviews – BDN Culture Shock

The sweet-voiced Anna Lombard, formerly of Gypsy Tailwind, released in the late summer her debut full-length solo LP, “Head Full of Bells,” an accessible pop collection tinged with the country and blues that her previous band synthesized so well. Lombard has one of those voices that should be and rightfully is put front and center — a soulful, precise thing that has served her well and continues to do so on “Head Full of Bells.” It easily draws comparisons to fellow roots-pop artists like KT Tunstall or Brandi Carlile, from the country-rock of “They Want Us Dead” to the melodic kiss-off “Nothing Of Us Left.” Lombard worked on the album with songwriter and major label session musician Adam Agati, a Portland native who lends a polished sheen to songs like the catchy, guitar-driven “Waiting for Rescue,” or the sad but confident “Life Takes,” the latter of which could be heard on an Adele album.

Lombard Gets Back To Her Roots at Franco Arts Center

LEWISTON – The Franco Center welcomes Anna Lombard in concert on Saturday, Oct. 5 for a show that its management feels lucky to have landed.

“Anna Lombard is a monumental talent that represents the state’s best chance in a long time of getting Maine on America’s music radar,” said Executive Director Louis Morin, who sought her out because of her potential to break out nationally. It was only after he booked her concert that he learned of her family’s roots in Lewiston, as Lombard herself explains.

“My grandmother, whose maiden name was Breton, was from Lewiston,” said Lombard, who is 28. “My earliest memories of childhood were visiting my great-grandmother and my great aunt, who still lives there after working for many years at Cushman’s shoe factory.”

Lombard, who lives in Portland, is on quite a roll since the mid-August release of “Head Full of Bells,” her first solo CD after years performing and releasing albums with the groups Gypsy Tailwind and Anna and the Diggs. Portland radio station WCLZ-FM has been playing the CD’s first single, “Leave Town,” in its heavy rotation and is giving away tickets to the Franco Center show on the air.

ReverbNation, the online independent music web site with over 3 million subscribers, listed Lombard in its “Five Artists You Should Hear” feature. “Head Full of Bells” spent weeks at #2 on the local CD sales charts at Bull Moose outlets statewide after its release, and the great reviews keep pouring in. Lombard will have copies of the CD for sale at the Franco Center.

Her show will feature an all-star backing band that includes Paranoid Social Club’s Trent Gay on guitar and Jon Roods of Rustic Overtones (and also Gay’s band-mate in PSC) on bass. Filling out the rhythm section is former Rustic Overtones drummer Tony McNaboe, currently visiting Maine after leaving the state a couple years ago to pursue a music career in that other L/A – Los Angeles.

Local musicians Nick Racioppi and Rich Lambert perform an opening set starting at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. They’re available 24/7 by phone at 689-2000 or online at www.francocenter.org, or may be purchased in person at the Franco Center box office from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

While her maternal grandparents hail from Lewiston, this show marks Lombard’s first here in the city.

“I’m truly looking forward to opening the ears of the city to a new name and a new sound, and hope to win them over at the same time,” said Lombard.

Portland Phoenix, “Anna Lombard teams with Adam Agati,” August 30, 2013

Portland Phoenix

Anna Lombard teams with Adam Agati


All the Bells and whistles


By SAM PFEIFLE | August 30, 2013

Anna Lombard

ANYTHING BUT WEAK Anna Lombard goes it alone.

People generally think they know what good guitar playing sounds like. It’s all fast and stuff, right? But when guitar players listen to other guitar players, they’re generally impressed by the nuance. The tone, where the notes fall, how those notes complement what the other instruments are doing.

Similarly, people watch American Idol or The Voice and have no problem telling you what great voices all the contestants have. But so many of those singers are just yellers — belting out every song like they’ve never seen a microphone, regardless of whether the material calls for it or not. How they can consistently go top-of-the-lungs with Simon and Garfunkel songs that were essentially whispered in their original versions is hard to understand.

Truly good singers don’t need to pop the veins from their foreheads to transmit emotion and talent. It comes easy, as though the song is just flowing out of them when they open their mouths.
That’s what impressed this listener most when Anna Lombard first appeared locally on the debut Gypsy Tailwind record. She could be brassy, sure, but also subtle and supporting in harmony vocals with former bandmate Dan Connor. Her first post-Gypsy record, with Anna and the Diggs, was a departure — a display of raw power, like a gale force wind.

Well, kids, the nuance is back on Head Full of Bells, Lombard’s debut solo effort. The new album was written entirely by Adam Agati, an in-demand guitarist who was born in Portland, went to Berklee College of Music, and spent several years in Nashville doing cool things like being Miley Cyrus’ guitar teacher and touring with singer-songwriter Marc Broussard. These days, Agati lives in New York City and tours with Ludacris (yes, really) while also working with up-and-coming acts like Lombard.

The result of the Lombard-Agati pairing is an album that genre-hops, is consistently interesting, and features a number of distinctive flourishes that still leave room for Lombard’s voice to stand out.

On this eight-song record, Lombard is generally blue, thanks to an indeterminate “you” who alternately needs to leave, has already left, or is being urged to definitely stay.

But don’t expect wistful wailing. The album closer, “All for You” might open with a big sigh and play up the plaintive, but when Lombard hits you with the uppercut lyric, “your heart is a machine,” the powerful emotion is anything but weak. One of Lombard’s strengths is her ability to remind the listener what it’s like to feel something so strongly. In “Why Did You Leave Me?” she doesn’t just tear the schmuck’s pictures off the walls, she burns them.

Juxtaposed against that intensity is a playfulness from the instruments behind her, a shimmery and ringing sound that highlights the timbre of Lombard’s voice. Backing vocals from Lyle Divinsky and Sara Hallie Richardson blend seamlessly. There are hints of jazz, even in the album’s most country-pop songs, but the bridge in “Confessions” is full-on fusion, something to make the late George Duke smile down at his keyboard. It’s an especially surprising element given the John Denver-esque chorus, in which Lombard sings, “Please, love, accept what I am.”

The songs feature classical pop structures with an alternating verse and chorus; just about every song has a bridge. A few tracks, including “Leave Town” (currently in rotation on ‘CLZ) and “Life Takes,” could be a minute or so shorter. The “oh-oah” post-chorus in the former is genuinely thrilling in its first iteration, but then gets beaten a touch silly after the bridge. Similarly, Lombard executes a particularly lovely vocal descend in the chorus of the latter, but it’s not only sort of double-long, but we get it four times (plus a repeat of the opening lyrics as a bookend).

Sometimes, you should leave people wanting more. And in the case of Head Full of Bells, people will want more like the bridge in “Takes” — damn, that’s good. Like, Brandi Carlile good. This record is more “put together” than Carlile’s work, though, winding up somewhere between that kind of alt-sassiness and the more pure pop sound of Amy Allen’s last record, which also had some Nashville behind it.

This is a record made by people who knew what they were doing and executed it well. Lombard’s first outing on her own may have been a team effort, but the result is a strong album that allows a powerhouse performer to shine in her own right.

HEAD FULL OF BELLS | Released by Anna Lombard | with Lyle Divinsky | at Port City Music Hall, in Portland | Aug 16

Link: http://portland.thephoenix.com/music/155357-anna-lombard-teams-with-adam-agati/

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