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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES in NH » NEW HAMPSHIRE (all topics) » Forests of Azure Yield Musical Salvation from Fellow New Englander
Forests of Azure Yield Musical Salvation from Fellow New Englander

By Daniel Bindschedler | July 23, 2010

Singer-song writer Ray LaMontagne, hailing from the dusty backwoods of northern New England has just released his third folk-rock album, “Gossip in the Grain,” under RCA Records.

His signature raspy yet simultaneously warm and vibrant voice is undeniably his strongest feature and carries evocations of peace and protest from a past era. For a rough auditory example, think Joe Cocker’s voice meshed with Paul Simon’s guitar work.

In his long awaited follow up album to “Till the sun turns black,” LaMontagne champions a buttery melodic voice fitting of troubadour in a long line of tradition – think Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Stephen Stills (the last being Ray’s chief influence and inspiration for quitting his job at a shoe factory and becoming a musician).

“Gossip in the Grain” finds the artist wrapped in a deep love affair with the smooth peanut-butter and chocolate-like combination of folk guitar and strings, the same elegant style that swayed tranquilly through LaMontagne’s first album, “Trouble,” released in 2004.

However, in “Gossip,” this love affair has moved on to a new stage – it has just gotten more serious. If “Trouble” was the initial encounter of this affair, the first stage of the relationship, then “Gossip” takes us past the innocent blissful stage to the next step. Now comes the juicier phase of the relationship: the part where relatives are met, living space is shared, and perhaps even a new pet is acquired. Ray’s sound, that is to say, has begun to develop and introduce listeners to more facets of his potential. “Gossip” presents listeners with more of the artist’s influences as portrayed by the salacious 60s’ horns on “You are the best thing,” (the opening track in which LaMontagne’s soulful Sam Cooke voice is at its best). Stylistic broadening ensues as the album progresses including a Bob Dylan-esque finger-picking driven track called “Sarah,” which introspectively chronicles a relationship and is vaguely suggestive of songs from Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.”

LaMontagne’s smooth wooly voice that approaches the microphone like wind soaring over the plains of America’s bread basket will fill you with wander-lust and warmth in songs like “Let it Be Me,” and “I Still Care for You.” “Meg White,” is a bold yet personal tribute to the mysterious female drummer of the White Stripes.

Those itching for warm sunrise lyrics and simple folk guitar from days by-gone will find relief in Ray LaMontagne’s newest contribution which offers breathing lessons to the sick and weary fans of folk-rock. With his warm and wooly voice he draws them under his wings and nurses them back to health with lyrics that tell us it was ok to worry and that peace is imminent.

So take a long breath and reach deep into your collective conscious. Slowly go back and run your stiff cold fingers over your memories of life and loss and hardship until you find that feeling you get when you conquer something you never thought you could – when you finally visited that promised land of your dreams, wherever it may be, or finally met that someone you always hoped you would. Whatever that feeling is for you, Ray La Montagne has captured it in “Gossip in the Grain.”

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