Gossip in the Grain

Ray LaMontagne continues to spread his wings in his new release Gossip in the Grain, incorporating new styles to his usual sound. This album even provides a series of lighter lyrics, a departure from the normally earnest words from LaMontagne.

The album's lead track and first single, "You Are the Best Thing," sets the tone of the album with a wholly new direction (for LaMontagne): a peppy, horn-drenched, R&B-flavored sound.

Perhaps the most striking song on this disc though is "Meg White," an ode to the White Stripes drummer. While sung straight-faced with the serious doomed-romantic approach that characterizes much of LaMontagne's music, the fact that it's about Meg White makes it an amusing change of pace.

Following that song on the album is "Hey Me, Hey Ma," which slowly builds to incorporate ragtime horns and key changes in a much more entertainingly theatrical arrangement than is his standard bill of fare. One can even detect a smile on his lips while singing.

One need not worry that he's totally reinvented himself, however. Spare, beautiful songs like "Sarah" and Winter Birds" will keep longtime LaMontagne listeners more than happy.

Gossip in the Grain is his third album overall, each produced by Ethan Johns. The past two, however, were primarily LaMontagne and Johns performing everything themselves. This time, the music was recorded playing with an actual band in the studio.

Few singers can capture the same kind of passion and sense of hopeful desolation as LaMontagne. And his third album maintains the high standard of excellence that set his previous discs miles apart from many other singer/songwriters.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Midday Host/Music Director