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Gossip In the Grain (Bonus Track Version)

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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

Soulful

Ray LaMontagne is one of my all time favorite artists. He continues to send shivers down my spine and bring tears to my eyes with his emotional lyrics and passionate voice. His music makes me crave a quiet night at home in the dark with candles and a glass of wine! Have been a huge fan since Trouble, and Gossip in the Grain continues to keeps me constantly tuned in to anything from Ray.

Diamond in the Rough

In appearance and sound, LaMontagne is the house band at the local bar that regulars swear by, and for good reason.

The album starts at its peak, with the Motown-esque "You Are The Best". There's really not enough I could say about the song. The voice, the arrangements, the lyrics, and everything else harmonizes so well to create what I feel is an underrated classic. Even if you don't buy the album, buy this song.

If the first song is a 10 (and it is!), the rest of the album is a 9. Ray glides between folk ("Winter Birds"), blues-rock ("Henry Nearly Killed Me"), country ("Hey Me, Hey Mama") and even humour ("Meg White", a light-hearted love letter to the Stripes' drummer). Each genre is not mastered, but effortlessly explored and redeemed by one of the most soulful voices in music today.

Standout tracks are "You Are The Best", "Let It Be Me", "Henry Nearly Killed Me", and "Roses and Cigarettes".

Get the album, you won't be dissapointed!

Superbe !

Une voix si chaude ,c'est incroyable ! Après avoir acheté un précédent album de Ray Lamontange, je me suis rendu compte qu'il m'en fallait plus ! Écoutez ne serait-ce que l'extrait "Winter Birds" .... absolument magnifique.

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...
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Gossip In the Grain (Bonus Track Version), Ray LaMontagne
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