Music | CD Review: Ray LaMontagne – Gossip in the Grain


The third album from Ray LaMontagne sees the bearded one venture into some previously unexplored
territory. Produced and mixed by Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon), who also served as a back up musician,
the album demonstrates LaMontagne’s growth both as a writer and performer.

Gossip opens with the Van Morrison-esque ‘You are the Best Thing’, an upbeat track with an irresistible
brass spine and a soulful backing vocal. This lively tone continues throughout the album, as LaMontagne vocalises something which he previously hadn’t- the sound of happiness, even enjoyment.

Strong tracks include ‘Meg White’, a love letter to the White Stripes’ drummer, with its light hearted sound and Morricone echoing opening, and ‘Henry Nearly Killed Me’, a defiant toe-tapper and ode to the down and out that sees Ray turn up the tempo substantially from his previous efforts.‘Hey Me, Hey Mama’ is another cheerful, banjo driven number that represents an interesting change of pace for the performer.

Lyrically, LaMontagne has also developed. His songs now brim with rustic imagery and vivid scenes, perfectly complimented by the sparse acoustics he provides on ‘Winter Birds’, for example.

Fans of Trouble and Till the Sun Turns Black need not worry however. LaMontagne can still make the clouds hang heavy on any sunny day. The album contains several tracks that re-visit earlier themes, namely those of lost or failing love. ‘Sarah’, the album’s highlight, and ‘I Still Care for You’ illustrate this perfectly.

LaMontagne’s most brilliant instrument remains his voice. Ranging between a sometimes almost inaudible
whisper to a primal roar capable of moving mountains, it lends his work an honesty and a vulnerability
that the vast majority of contemporary singer/songwriters will only ever dream of achieving.

In a Nutshell: A progressive and thoroughly sincere third album, though it may irk folk purists.

Rating: B+

Seán Kingston