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The set opens with the singer channeling his inner Memphis soul man on "You Are the Best Thing." Horns, strings, and a female backing chorus underscore LaMontagne's heartfelt uptempo rasp that touches on Sam Cooke as much as it does Tim Buckley with a hook worthy of Stax/Volt. We may have heard lyrics of this type a thousand times before, as they evoke loneliness and longing, but rarely have they been expressed this authentically and this dramatically. Echoes of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks are apparent in the gorgeous chamber jazz of "Sarah," and eerie, psychedelic British Isles folk -- complete with an otherworldly pedal steel -- haunts the grooves on "I Still Care for You." LaMontagne and Johns are able to create varying yet webbed atmospheres in these songs. The rambling free-form blues of "Henry Nearly Killed Me, (It's a Shame)" touches on Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker, and the Rolling Stones; it's another high point here.
Gossip in the Grain is LaMontagne's most adventurous recording, yet in many ways it's also the most focused and well executed. The partnership with Johns has become almost symbiotic at this point; his songwriting has become so confident, sure, and expressive -- despite the ready intimacy in its subject matter -- that he's become a kind of force majeure. One thing is certain, that given the consistency and vision LaMontagne has shown on all three albums, punters are certain to follow him wherever he goes next.

You Are the Best Thing
Ray LaMontagne
Let It Be Me
Sarah
I Still Care for You
Winter Birds
Meg White
Hey Me, Hey Mama
Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's a Shame)
A Falling Through
Gossip in the Grain
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  • Seller location: Nelson, Nelson Bays, NZ

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