Release Date: Oct 14, 2008
Record label: RCA Victor
Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Alternative
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.
Has LaMontagne ever not been mellow?Ray LaMontagne’s grainy voice has regularly been compared to Van Morrison’s and Tim Buckley’s. On his third album, he initially comes across like one of those unnaturally sincere singer/songwriters, like James Blunt or Damien Rice. But there’s more to him than achingly pretty acoustic folk songs. “Hey Me, Hey Mama” is actually a lusty rag—slowed to a tasteful crawl, but convincing nevertheless, thanks to its jazzy banjo and LaMontagne’s laidback delivery.
This soft-spoken singer-songwriter has the kind of earthy rasp and wounded sincerity that melts hearts and suggests lots of woodshedding with old Van Morrison records. Even without great songs, Ray LaMontagne could get by just on pure tone. On Gossip in the Grain, he slides effortlessly between horn-inflected R&B and hushed Nick Drake-like folk, with stops in between for string-band country, flute-flavored chamber pop, and harmonica-stoked blues.
Ray LaMontagne's third effort opens with a blast of suave Memphis horns on "You Are the Best Thing," bolstering gritty soul vocals with a powerful swagger that announces the Maine songwriter's expanded vision. Gossip finds the perfect balance between his raw emotional pull, singed in the soft sway of "Let It Be Me" and on desperate ballad "Winter Birds," with Ethan Johns' deftly layered production and arrangements, which accents "I Still Care for You" with haunting steel and hazy reverb and "Sarah" with delicate strings. The bluesy stomp of "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's a Shame)" kicks the dust with a train-chugging harmonica, while "Hey Me, Hey Mama" licks banjo and lopes like Old Crow Medicine Show.