Release Date: Aug 17, 2010
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Folk, Americana, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
On his fourth album, it sounds like Lamontagne has made a pact with the devil: he can write some of the best songs of his career so long as his voice sounds like he has spent the last month with his mouth wrapped round an exhaust pipe. Thankfully, his shot-to-pieces, Joe Cockeresque rasp entirely suits songs that seem to give more of themselves with every listen. Self-produced at home in the woods of rural Massachusetts, Lamontagne's folk blues sound as old as the hills and completely isolated from modern life.
It seems that Ray LaMontagne is finally growing comfortable in his own skin and with his popularity as a professional singer/songwriter. That may have something to do with having a full time band backing him. The Pariah Dogs—bassist Jennifer Condos, guitarists Eric Heywood and pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, keyboardist Patrick Warren and drummer Jay Bellerose—have been recording and touring with LaMontagne for a couple of years now.
Ray LaMontagne broke up with longtime producer Ethan Johns to make this live home recording with his ace band. On God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise, ”Repo Man” plays it loose and frisky from the get-go, a soul shuffle that gets LaMontagne all riled up. But it doesn’t take long for the singer to retreat into his beard for some Laurel Canyon-style sensitivity exercises.
It's ironic that the first Ray LaMontagne album to list a band's name on the cover is also his first solo flight. God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise is his fourth full-length, but it is the first without producer Ethan Johns -- LaMontagne helmed the session at his home studio and it is mostly a loose, laid-back affair with a couple of exceptions. The Pariah Dogs -- bassist Jennifer Condos, guitarists Eric Heywood and Greg Leisz, and drummer Jay Bellerose -- have recorded and/or toured with him previously.
A hazy weave of organic instrumentation and slide guitar. James Skinner 2010 Ray LaMontagne is blessed with a voice that emits weary melancholy with the best of them. More than this, his husky pipes retain the power to soothe even when they speak in terms of heartache, resulting in a highly unlikely success story: a Billboard-bothering singer so reluctant to be in the spotlight that he rarely grants interviews and refuses to make videos for his songs.
Since 2004, Ray LaMontagne, who might get unfairly pinned down as just another bearded folkie, has put out a string of resonant and emotional records, each with songs that range from the best of the folk/pop genre, to songs that skim influence from the finest 60s soul and R&B. God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise is a departure from that influence, and is a turn to a more traditional folk-rock record. But something feels a bit off; perhaps it’s that LaMontagne took over the production reins from Ethan Johns who has so masterfully manned that post on each of LaMontagne’s previous releases.