Ray LaMontagne, 'Gossip in the Grain' (RCA)

Gossip in the Grain
Critical Mass
Label: RCA

by J Gabriel Boylan

Well respected for sparse, plaintive bummer folk since his 2004 debut, LaMontagne gets a bit more expansive here, gently juking his earthy rasp with Stax-y horns, guitar twang, and lilting lady backup vocals. Longtime producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon) turns down the Cat Stevens and pumps up the Sam Cooke on bounding love songs like opener "You Are the Best Thing." Elsewhere, LaMontagne veers between Brit-folk spookiness and trouble-in-mind blues; "I Still Care for You," a gorgeously foggy, pedal-steel-tinged weeper, splits the difference. Cheeky "Meg White," with its Morricone opening and Stripes-worthy stomp, offers something totally novel for LaMontagne: fun.



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