Ray Montford’s soulful electric guitar

By Contributor
March 23rd, 2010

You’ve got your ace fingerstyle players and your high-speed electric guitar noodlers, but there aren’t too many musicians out there playing electric with the soul of a David Gilmour or a Mark Knopfler. Ray Montford might just be the only guy in Canada pulling it off with such flair.

Inspired by Buddhist philosophy and by his love of the open road – he’s an avid motorcyclist – the one-time accompanist for the Rankin Family and Mary Jane Lamond composes stirring instrumentals that wring emotion from every note. 

Montford, who was named 2007’s Instrumentalist to Watch by Galaxie, is embarking on a rare Western Canadian tour with drummer Gary Craig (Bruce Cockburn, Tom Cochrane).  He’s touring to launch his new, digital-only album, The Live Sessions (Candyrat Records), a collection of pieces drawn mostly from his 2007 release, A Fragile Balance, performed in Ray’s current, more muscular performance style. Already, three videos from the album have received a combined 50,000 hits on YouTube.

Montford describes the creation of A Fragile Balance – and, by extension, The Live Sessions – as “therapeutic,” a process that helped him get his spirit back after a serious injury and some personal events left him feeling like he was wading through quick sand. There had never been any question of his talent as a composer – his music appears in some 20 documentaries, films and television specials, including NBC’s The Legacy of Jon Gates – but with Balance, he found his voice as a performer.

Having previously proven his metal with everything from acoustic fingerstyle to jazz and world, Montford settled into the British anthemic sound of pure impassioned electric, creating spacious sonic landscapes that suggest a connection with the natural elements – that same feeling bikers describe experiencing out on a deserted stretch of highway.

As it happens, Montford isn’t just a distinguished composer and musician. For him, the music and the sound quality are inseparable elements of his work, and his skill as a producer and engineer has made him a darling of the audiophile community. When not performing his own work, Montford runs his own studio, Soundhole Studios, where he has worked with artists like Mary Jane Lamond, The Brothers Creeggan and Autorickshaw.

Montford’s moving instrumentals have been heard on national CBC radio and in the CBS television series The Eleventh Hour, the CBC TV documentary Marymount Again, and the PBS/Vision TV series Marginless Living and Who is My Neighbour – among other places.

Montford is a regular at Toronto’s Beaches Jazz Festival and has toured The Netherlands with Autorickshaw’s Ed Hanley. He has also opened Toronto and Montreal dates for Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel). Otherwise, he eschews bar gigs in favour of less frequent performances at theatres and listening rooms. 

His forthcoming tour of B.C. and Alberta represents a very rare trip out west for Montford.  Music fans should not miss this chance to discover an unsung Canadian talent. 

Ray Montford will be appearing at the Old FIre Hall in Rossland this Saturday night.

Categories: Arts and Culture

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