Only four years ago, folk singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne was bearded and dirt poor. On Tuesday, the now-popular but still bearded LaMontagne released his third studio album, Gossip in the Grain.
LaMontagne’s story, a tale for all aspiring artists, began after barely graduating from high school. Inspired by Stephen Stills’ “Treetop Flyer” one early morning, LaMontagne quit his job at a shoe factory to pursue his passion for music. His shabby clothes and mountain man appearance perfectly embody the raspy, soulful voice that fans all over the world recognize from the first note. His first album, Trouble (2004), sold over 400,000 copies worldwide, with the title song of the album peaking at No. 5 in the UK in 2006. LaMontagne continued his songwriting, releasing another heartfelt album, Till the Sun Turns Black, in 2006.
While many fans felt his sophomore production did not live up to the same standard set by the warm, earthy sounds of Trouble, LaMontagne found a way to expand his instrumentation, including a horn section and string section.
Gossip in the Grain is yet another expansion by the husky-voiced musician. While some songs, including “Let It Be Me” and “Winter Birds,” hold true to LaMontagne’s classic emotion-filled folk, others feature his tendency to explore music combinations. From the bluegrass “Hey Me, Hey Mama” to the upbeat rocker “Meg White” and the jazz-inspired “You Are the Best Thing,” LaMontagne manages to incorporate rich lyrics that drip with meaning and passion with his soothing voice.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars