Ray LaMontagne: Gossip in the Grain (SonyBMG)

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Ray LaMontagne: I Still Care For You
Ray LaMontagne: Gossip in the Grain (SonyBMG)

Frankly, after his last album - the excellent Till the Sun Turns Black which was acclaimed at Elsewhere and probably elsewhere - this is a little disappointing, but not in the way you might think.

Where Sun was a muted and often melancholy affair which in places sounded close to Nick Drake and an early but glum Van Morrison, this one goes the whole soul-blues route and it might be fair to observe that this quite reclusive US singer-songwriter is in a more upbeat mood. (Well, his previous one was written after a divorce and this opens with a "you are the best thing that ever happened to me" track.)

This is not to say there isn't a lot to enjoy here in his throaty delivery which rides the horn sections or gets low and intimate, it's just that my previous reference to "like a young Joe Cocker" seems to have come to fruition. And maybe even a bit more like white soul-blues singers like Chris Rea, Paul Young, Grayson Hughes (if you remember his "let's talk it over in bed") and so on. And he also does the unforgivable in my book, sings about "oh my lady" on the otherwise lovely Winter Birds.

Where his previous album seemed to come out of nowhere this one is fairly well grounded in the familiar (Ray Charles, Cocker etc) but he is a very accomplished songwriter, has a winning way with a delivery (great at the pregnant pause, the sudden stop for effect), this works best on the understated tracks (the Van-like I Still Care For You) and I have no doubt this will be widely embraced. Just a bit MOR for me.

Glad he's happier though.

 

 

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