Ray LaMontagne

Gossip in the Grain (RCA)

Phases & Stages

Ray LaMontagne

Gossip in the Grain (RCA)

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. LaMontagne's infectiously playful ode to the White Stripes' Meg White dominates, though the breathiness of "A Falling Through" and closing title track drift a bit too airy and hollow.

***.5

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