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Gossip In the Grain (Bonus Track Version)

Ray LaMontagne

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Album Review

Ray LaMontagne's third album, Gossip in the Grain is as different from 2007's Till the Sun Turns Black as that album was from 2006's Trouble. The deep, heart-of-night atmospherics of the preceding disc have been jettisoned in favor of a brightly lit palette of textures and instruments that legendary producer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Johns uses to illustrate LaMontagne's considerable ambitions as a writer. The set opens with the singer channeling his inner Memphis soul man on "You Are the Best Thing." Horns, strings, and a female backing chorus underscore LaMontagne's heartfelt uptempo rasp that touches on Sam Cooke as much as it does Tim Buckley with a hook worthy of Stax/Volt. In terms of sequencing, it certainly grabs the listener, but it is also arguably the best track here. "Let It Be Me" follows with a folksier, looser soul groove, where acoustic guitars, a Telecaster, piano, and strings underscore the hypnotic lilt in the verse. But LaMontagne can write a coda and a bridge and he gets his voice right into the meat of the lyric. We may have heard lyrics of this type a thousand times before, as they evoke loneliness and longing, but rarely have they been expressed this authentically and this dramatically. Echoes of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks are apparent in the gorgeous chamber jazz of "Sarah," and eerie, psychedelic British Isles folk — complete with an otherworldly pedal steel — haunts the grooves on "I Still Care for You." LaMontagne and Johns are able to create varying yet webbed atmospheres in these songs. Ray can find a style and write in it as if he'd created it. Johns adds so much depth and dimension in the mix that it feels as if both singer and songwriter will never be able to extricate themselves either from the emotional intentions expressed in his lyrics, or from the sound itself. The most notorious track on this set is the humorous yet tender "Meg White," for the White Stripes' drummer. With its imaginative use of an Ennio Morricone-esque spaghetti western intro, Johns playing Wurlitzer and Mellotron, a Pink Floyd cadenza, and drumming of the sort White trademarked, it's no throwaway; add to this a seemingly sincere offer of friendship and empathy and there is an undeniable emotional appeal. "Hey Me, Hey Mama," has a back porch singalong feel, and features a banjo, trombone, and trumpet. The rambling free-form blues of "Henry Nearly Killed Me, (It's a Shame)" touches on Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker, and the Rolling Stones; it's another high point here.

Gossip in the Grain is LaMontagne's most adventurous recording, yet in many ways it's also the most focused and well executed. The partnership with Johns has become almost symbiotic at this point; his songwriting has become so confident, sure, and expressive — despite the ready intimacy in its subject matter — that he's become a kind of force majeure. One thing is certain, that given the consistency and vision LaMontagne has shown on all three albums, punters are certain to follow him wherever he goes next.

Customer Reviews

This guy is amazing!

I've been a musician for close to 25 years. There are very few instances where I am truly enthralled the first time that I hear an artist I am unfamiliar with. I saw him on Saturday Night Live and could not take my eyes off of the screen. He is simply amazing. That voice... my god, that voice! Raspy, desperate, angelic... the amount of soul that comes from this skinny white guy is truly staggering. Emotion in the music is the sign of a truly great artist, and this guy has it... in spades! His work will become one of the mainstays in my music collection for years to come. Hints of The Band and Van Morrison put this guy's talent in some pretty elite company. Do yourself a favor, buy everything he puts onto tape. I don't understand anyone who isnt moved by his work.

Music for real life

Ray LaMontagne has a voice that is both haunting and beautiful at the same time. You can feel his emotion coming through your headphones or your home speakers and adds a level of enjoyment to anything you’re doing. Whether you’re cooking dinner with your girlfriend, taking a solo drive on a sunny afternoon or sitting on the bus on the way to work this Album allows you to fully enjoy your surroundings or completely escape them in a day dream – I very much enjoyed listening to this album.

no words...

one of the best voices around just makes you melt.

Biography

Born: June 18, 1973 in Nashua, NH

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

With a voice that recalls a huskier, sandpapery version of Van Morrison and Tim Buckley, Ray LaMontagne joins such artists as Iron & Wine in creating folk songs that are alternately lush and intimately earthy. The songwriter was born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1973; his parents split up shortly after his birth, and his mother began a pattern of moving her six children to any locale that could offer her employment and housing. As a result, LaMontagne grew up as the perennial new kid in school...
Full Bio
Gossip In the Grain (Bonus Track Version), Ray LaMontagne
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